Mark Handforth’s work is centred around the sculptural vocabulary of urban areas and familiar elements of day-to-day life (traffic signs, street lamps, motor scooters, truck wheels, hydrants, neon tubes, or candles). He adapts them by either remodelling them or by replicating them on an often considerably larger scale – which, in many cases, creates uncertainty as to whether the pieces are ready-mades or not. Yet this is, as a matter of fact, irrelevant: Handforth doesn’t pursue any documentary interests; rather than wanting to reproduce reality, he arranges familiar everyday elements in such a way that they create new points of reference. In this regard, allusions to literature and society are given the same consideration as art-historical implications. Handforth is an eloquent multilingual voice-artist who narrates our own history within an artistic context.
The sculpture, Snow White (2016), is a monumental white star, constructed from folded aluminium and painted to reflect light and absorb shadow, Snow White is equal parts unhinged signage, dislocated symbol and artefact of humanity. Stars, as we see them in the night sky, are just endless lines of pulsing light radiating out indefinitely, energetic beginnings with no end in sight.
In Handforth’s other sculpture on view, Pink Panther (2016), an aluminium pipe has been bent by sheer force exerted onto it, until the pipe finally succumbed to the pressure. Yet this supposed act of destruction has resulted in a form, an inevitable star. Standing aloof and balanced on one leg, Pink Panther stands apart with absurd poise. Its rather strange matte pink colour (itself the counterintuitive camouflage paint devised by the British for desert ops, and which gives the sculpture its title) is as theatrical as it is self-effacing.
For Handforth, art is of particular interest when it collides with reality. In 2013, he conceived a sculpture for Maagplatz as part of the event Gasträume 2013 – Public Art in Zurich. His two new sculptures are now towering over this location – on the 5th floor rooftop terrace of Galerie Eva Presenhuber’s exhibition and office spaces on the Maag – Areal. The terrace offers a unique view of Zurich and even of the mountains on a clear day. With the Prime Tower directly next to it, this location makes for an exciting urban setting for both works.
In contrast to art in public spaces, for example on a square or in a park, the space on the rooftop terrace is much more limited: While they can be spotted from further away, such as from the bridge opposite the building, the sculptures are supposed to be seen from a much closer distance and experienced in a much more physical manner. The space is negotiated between the works, the beholder’s body and the architectural setting, concretely the terrace’s rails. The sculpture’s monumental scales can only be experienced in direct relation to one’s own body.