Marie Søndergaard Lolk
08 Jun – 02 Sep 2023
By Bodil Skovaard Nielsen
Something begins here. Stretching your arms and legs, still heavy from sleep, wiping away the sleep from your eyes and squinting into the light. And then it stays right there. Beginning to begin perpetually.
Marie Søndergaard Lolk’s works are about becoming. It’s not exactly that her pieces look unfinished, rather that they tremble, under the yolk of possibilities, of all the roads not yet taken. It might be silk paper doused in glue, making me think: is this a landscape of rolling hills and a bright sun I’m barely able to make out? When will the scene come into focus, when is it finally going to become something? But it’s not about focusing the lenses, it’s almost the opposite: this artist explores the borders between being and not-being. Her works are halfway out of their perforated eggshells, but still behind the membrane. My gaze, that so wants to lockdown the meaning of everything, needs to stay blurred.
Layers, that is what it’s about. How much can you build something up before it gets stuck – and how many layers can you then peel off, before there’s nothing left. Marie Søndergaard Lolk’s works comprise foamboard, chipboard, acrylic paint, masking tape and pieces of string. All things you might want to throw away, things that are in their millions being discarded across the world, chucked in bins and skips or hauled to the dump. It’s rubbish, but it’s also connective tissue, matter that keeps the world together. In the hands of the artist these materials, that so often play secondary roles, are allowed to undergo a transformation. Masking tape looks like soft fabric, chipboard like billowing smoke from a crater, drawn lines become clouds drifting across the sky. If you’re lucky, you might be able to make out fragments of letters as though smeared on a whiteboard. Or nonsensical notes scrawled by hand. But know you will never be close enough to fully decipher what is really being said. The materials keep you at a distance while at the same time opening up: all of this, like a haze before you, could become a thousand different things.
Marie Søndergaard Lolk investigates how images become images: how the human eye is prone to finding shapes and forms and motifs. Even when she produces something that others might call abstraction or minimalism, the reduction to pure expression or pure form is never the (only) end goal. She is not at all interested in any form of purity. Instead, her pieces quiver right there on the edge of the visible and invisible, as the French phenomenological philosopher Merleau-Ponty would say. He believed that all the objects we consider separate in fact exist within the same fabric, before they reach our senses. He called this ‘the flesh’, la chair de monde – and believed that some artworks could enable us to see the exact moment, where form emerges from the mass.
Flesh smells like iron, it sticks to your fingers – and Merleau-Ponty writes so beautifully, that you almost don’t notice that there’s something terrifying about his concept. But that’s exactly what Marie Søndergaard Lolk has an eye for. What emerges are not stunningly beautiful moments, rather instances that carry with them the potential for violence. Her works are like clouds drifting past, except they’re caught mid-flight. Or sunbeams that are violently locked inside squares on the living room floor. Shapes that have emerged from the flesh can also sink back in – and return to nothingness: just when you think you’ve seen a pattern emerge from a frieze or a piece of paper, it fades. Leaving you doubting if what you saw was ever there at all.
She plays around with the sacral and the profane: inside her work lives a jester, a trickster, like the ones we know from fairytales or a royal court of the Middle Ages. In Marie Søndergaard Lolk’s work, materials disguise themselves: you might find cheap wood painted to look like costly timber. She makes blueprints for elaborate machines – or are they just manuals for IKEA furniture? – that you may or may not be able to realise. Or she creates dioramas, just like the ones you know from museums of natural history, three-dimensional sceneries attempting to re-enact how something was, and is. But they never let you all the way in, when you come close enough you realise that things are not exactly as they seem. ‘Don’t believe anything you see’, the pieces seem to whisper.
What would we do without the trickster, without the Loki’s of the world? How predictable and boring everything would become. In the work of Marie Søndergaard Lolk we don’t just find an urge to depict; to capture the processes of sensory perception with whatever might be at hand, be it markers and cardboard. No, in the same way she celebrates all the discardable materials, she lets the works deceive us. They’re playing tricks.
The works are like building blocks, doodles and outlines and amoebas, from which all else must be cast. But just because you have an alphabet, it doesn’t mean you have words. Or meaning or stories, for that sake. In the works of Marie Søndergaard Lolk, madness is always lurking right behind the next corner. It’s a part of their charm: maybe it’s all just nonsense?
Translated by Andreas Eckhardt-Læssøe
Click here to discover Marie Søndergaard Lolk’s practice further.