Ruth Sacks: Works in Wax and Plastic

    Reflections on Works in Wax and Plastic
    by Delphi Carstens

    Flesh-like and restorative to work with, wax has a consistency not unlike that of fat - a substance that German performance artist Joseph Beuys utilised to symbolize soothing.
    Although Works in Wax and Plastic may appear tranquil, they challenge anyone who dares to look beneath their surfaces.
    Constructed around discarded objects and built-up with potentially volatile materials, they embody opposites - despair and hope.

    Wax sculpture, as an art form, has it roots in the ritual preservation and remembrance of the dead. In Memoriam perhaps recalls the Medieval and Roman practice of making wax likenesses of the dearly departed. Instead of an effigy, however, we are presented with wax-encased objects that recall the deceased's touch - a favorite book of poems, a blouse, and bed linen. Coated in resin, these frozen relics of feeling appear moist. It's as if they have been soaked with tears, or washed clean.

    A strong vein of loss and renewal runs through all these Works. Constructing new meanings around pasts, presents, and futures they rework notions of artifice, waste, and regeneration.
    Painted, dipped and whittled with wax and given a coating of plastic resin, found objects and mementos are not only restored, they are resituated in a new imaginary.

    As symbols of salvaged hope, works such as Urban Flowers encapsulate visions of beauty in an artificial and industrial wasteland. They suggest new organic forms evolving from the detritus of synthetically mediated lives and processes.

    Whilst Urban Flowers concerns renewal, You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat it Too, Chocolate Stand and Push -Me-Pull-Me are suggestive of kitsch decadence and dream-like illusions of luxury and opulence. Worlds apart in appearance and texture, these varied works nonetheless revolve around the subject of artifice, corrosion, and decay. Whereas Urban Flowers represents a street-level and grounded reality, the others signify that which is tantalisingly inaccessible.

    The You Can't Have confectioneries cannot be consumed. Like most seductive glamorisations, they aren't designed to provide complete satisfaction. Instead they proffer an endless deferral of desire and leave us always wanting more. For this reason, perhaps, the cakes have been made to smell real. Similarly, they are not completely frozen - their top layers can be moved around and shifted. Rendered adjustable, they somehow never look quite right and so represent the seduction, glamour, and illusion of personalization that exists on the very threshold of repulsion.

    These warring sensations can be construed of as part-and-parcel of the contemporary urban sensibility that informs Works in Wax and Plastic. As a whole, these sculptures intimate the ambiguous emotions conjured up by all artificial replication and reconstruction. Simultaneously, their form suggests something natural and aesthetic - an organic renewal of rudimentary shape and feeling.

    Resonance, 2002, Wax, found objects, 48 X 143 X 57cm