Works by Olaf Breuning at Cass Sculpture Foundation

Cass Sculpture Foundation near Chichester hosts a major exterior exhibition by leading Swiss artist Olaf Breuning from March 30-September 2.

Olaf Breuning
Olaf Breuning

West Sussex will be getting a taste of Olaf’s Central Park, New York success in the Cass grounds with a showing of Clouds. Standing at more than ten metres tall, they will compete with Cass’s towering treescape.

Held in place by rudimentary steel supports, the six cartoonish clouds are cut from polished aluminium and powder-coated in different hues of bright blue.

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Clouds is a permanent realisation of an earlier work in which Olaf used lifting cranes and boom lifts to elevate large blue cut-out drawings of clouds into the air for a momentary staged photograph.

As Olaf explains, their whimsical bulbous shapes and blue finishes are reminiscent of a child’s rendering of the sky or the set of a primary-school play.

His idea is that his naive vision of the natural world provides a poignant counterpoint to the harsh ecological realities engendered by human civilization.

“I did it in Central Park for half a year, and this is exactly the same thing. When you do public art, it has got to be simple, something that is easy for people to pick up, this idea of clouds as part of nature on their robust steel constructions.

“They are like hope and dreams, but in my art I try not to give a message. I try to leave it open. Clouds are just something we love, and they are blue clouds. In New York City it was all grey and dark, and the clouds looked really nice.

“It is not work with a hugely-intelligent background. It is just playful. My work is mostly very playful and has humour in it.”

Olaf lived in New York City for 16 years before moving to upstate New York a couple of years ago.

“I got a scholarship from the city of Zurich for a year in New York City, and I stayed because I loved the city. And then I didn’t love it as much as I used to, so I moved upstate. New York City when you are younger is so exciting.

“It is full of so many people that are trying to do something. But 16 years for me was long enough. It is better to be outside the city as you get older.”

Whether he will ever go back to Switzerland, he is not so sure.

“Once you leave your roots, it can be very difficult to come back. I don’t plan to go back, but who knows…”

As for the current situation in the States: “I live in the forest. The deer and the bears are not political.

“I am an artist. I am in my bubble. I try to practise art, but obviously I know the world around me is changing. I just try to keep doing my art, but I do see all the uncertainties.

“I get upset by Trump, but I try to speak about my art. As an artist, I try to talk about the world we live in, global warming, the president, the greed of humankind, but also I know that that could change. At the moment, the US sucks, but who knows, in two years, the nightmare might be over. Things might be better.”

Also at Cass, Olaf will turn the main gallery into a temporary carpenter’s studio. Working with a mountain of discarded, salvaged and recycled wood from the local area in West Sussex, he will create a series of large Scrap Faces, made specifically for CASS. He will work on site over the Easter weekend to construct his free-standing Scrap Faces, encouraging surreal characters to appear in the makeshift wooden patchwork compositions.

For other stories by Phil, see: