What kind of act is it to cut through a surface? Potentially savage, vicious and even violent, it could also be a kind of surgery or suture – a sign of healing and reparation to come. A cut is the way we speak of discharging someone – we cut them out or cut them deeply – a social metaphor based on a knife’s sharp line – the knife’s social sharpness that ruthlessly stabs in the back. But a cut is also a break, a release, a change, a sudden movement that is transformative – metamorphasizing from one state to another, the cut that stitches time and images in movies – the cut that binds by being the cut that releases and frees. The difference that is the remove of courage. But always the edge is central, the edge of one thing and the space that inhabits the difference between two planes, two levels. It scores, it engraves, it incises, it precises..
In contemporary art, the cut is associated primarily with the aesthetic legacy of Lucio Fontana, Italian artist and texturist par excellence (not textualist mind you). Fontana’s constant and inventive work stabs, punctures, slices and dices in its vivid attack on the modernist picture plane (and 1949 has been called the “year of the cut”, a moment of highlighting the torn, the ripped and the deliberately pierced in painting and collage). After Hiroshima, no surface capable of containing the poetry to conflate Adorno and the disillusioned European artists of that moment. But, like other avant-garde methodologies and politically aware art, its lessons are, today, played out with more nuance and less severity in their positioning.
Andreas Kocks understands these lessons from recent history and enhances both their extreme physicality and their metaphoric potential. He too cuts and marks deeply into a surface but his chosen medium is somewhat pliant, not as resistant as Fontana’s deliberately obdurate faces. Having abandoned the weight (the gravitas) of sculpture (steel, bronze, lead, cement), Kocks took to paper, the substance which sits between staid material and full elasticity – the stuff that artists return to again and again as though it is an ur substance of alchemy whether they be post-modernists or reactionaries. Together with the full exploration of the dimensional space in which his works reside, he carefully constructs a dialogue which is outside of outside of sculpture, outside of drawing and outside of time (or at least the historical time of style). This set of methods of abandoning something (a medium for instance) is the cut he performs before cutting into and through the passive, almost neutral manuscript and the benign spaces it occupies.. Incising, engraving in space, layering through the peel of the skin, Kocks manufactures an explosive image. The contradiction is observable. A careful methodology – a caring methodology even – the slowly emerging skeins are somehow now full of energy – they give off a palpable sense of movement and direction. They are optical maelstroms on the wall, on the ceiling, on the floor. Sweeping broadly away from the viewer and around at the same time, the work strangely accomplishes much more than its simple techniques would seem to promise.
I think for me what is the most improbable, and thus enjoyable and provocative, is that the actual works – made of simple cut lines and graceful negative spaces in white or black – are so emotional. They burst with a barely constrained and refined unconscious jolt. For me, Andreas Koks has somehow, in this weird and unexpected act of representation, unleashed from a history which began as resistant or even antagonistic, found a place where power can be unearthed without threat, where violence can be contemplative, where ferocious acts can be redemptive and where an image might tender the hope its process of creation offers.
text by bruce w. ferguson