The Plate Juggler

Maud Haya Baviera

One, two or three would not suffice to make us understand the extent of his talent. The plate juggler needs multitude and excess to make us feel the exquisite danger of a threatened balance. Brücke, the latest installation by Simon Le Ruez, conveys the same desire of worried stability. His invading yet subtle sculptures populate the space in a delicate labyrinth of form, all arrested and in perfect harmony with each other. In visiting the gallery, one is struck by a double and contradictory impression, one of an urban landscape and one of a carefully cultivated garden. Throughout this exhibition Le Ruez constantly reminds us that his interest in sculpture is neither for the massive nor imposing forms most classically associated with this medium. His interest is sourced in the heart of fragility, in what from the top of a stick can fall and shatter, what breaks, crumples, stretches but resists and never collapses.

The gallery itself, a perfect rectangle has two large windows with views of the inner courtyard, in German ‘Innenhof’. This enclosed space has already proved inspiring to Le Ruez as one of his previous works bears this Germanic name (1). The courtyard represents a fertile paradox, it plays at neither being inside nor outside. Its seclusion from the street alludes to privacy, yet many windows look over it forming a small urban amphitheatre. Throughout his work Le Ruez has explored the slip between the public and the private spheres. Brücke strives to re-stage this ambivalence, it domesticates the gigantism of the city by miniaturising the industrial into a rockery, an imagined and private patio. Cubic forms are skyscrapers adorned by crystallites and pearly architectural ornaments. An interior plant becomes a roof garden. From a small flowerpot, now a fountain, flows an orange string the colour of road works. Nearby lays a sculpted head, it belongs to a park enjoyed by city-dwellers on Sunday afternoons. It is blinded and partially packaged by a thick ribbon like the prohibiting access of a construction site. There is also a crane as well as glassy, mirroring windows all alluding to modern architecture, yet transformed into elegant and slender forms. Only one pictorial work is included in the exhibition. It is a frieze, a photographic collage of many bridges found in the post-industrial town of Dortmund. Their arrangement, side by side, linked to each other merge them into a singular construction. White acrylic paint has been applied to the photographs, erasing the surrounding landscape so that only the structure of the bridges remain, thus creating a focus on their sculptural nature, which in turn distances them from being only pictorial. The bridges become an imaginary horizon referring the viewer to the notion of open landscape, a bucolic vision reinforced by a sunset, a hanging circular sculpture of boreal colours. Le Ruez must have thought of Antonioni’s Red Desert when he coloured this exhibition (2).

When amidst the installation Invisible cities by Italo Calvino also comes to mind (3). In the novel, two voices are discussing, trying to understand and invent the city. In the exhibition one of these voices is a merchant and industrial one, a sort of Kublai Khan, the other is poetic, imaginative and experimental alluding to the adventurous tone of Marco Polo. Both constantly interact and translate each other.

Among cubic forms, elongated lines, rectangles and all that evokes the urban landscape Le Ruez has taken care to insert punctuations in the form of circles, spheres and discs. These circularities sharpen the view and orchestrate the visitor's regard and journey through the work. These spheres, lenses and orbs are also refined motifs wavering and trembling, a light touch could lead them to their loss. They bring tension and delicacy to an assured manmade landscape.

The Juggler was in medieval Europe a wanderer (4), a kind of Marco Polo figure, whom with or without plates was master at conquering the fragile and deeply touching equilibrium of form and image.

(1) Simon Le Ruez, Innenhof, exhibited as part of The other side of you and me, solo exhibition at Vane Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2015 (2) Michelangelo Antonioni, Red Desert, (Italian: Il deserto rosso), 1965 (3) Italo Calvino, Invisible cities, (Italian: Le città invisibili), Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1972 (4) Chris Baldick, The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford University Press, 2008

The Plate Juggler was written in 2015 and in response to Simon Le Ruez’s solo exhibition Brücke, at Künstlerhaus Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany