‘That’s So Metal’: artist Saskia Folk’s latest exhibition

At an austere gallery space in South Melbourne, local artist Saskia Folk staged an exhibition featuring panels carved from abandoned automobiles, each curated for qualities of graceful decay. There is no retouching of surfaces. Instead, decades of weather exposure are inferred from the cracking of varnish and creasing of metal.

‘Panel Work USA’ featured Saskia’s first work from America. Previously, she had sourced panels from cars abandoned in the Australian desert. This time, she brought home pieces from a California wrecking yard.

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Yards for the recycling of steel and car parts are an American archetype, dating to the late 1880s. (America’s automotive industry dates to the same decade.)

Cut out from this historical and social context, the panels are not immediately identifiable as car parts. The art object is strangely familiar, as is a rectangle of eucalyptus bark removed from its physical nature.

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There is a raw, elemental forthrightness to each piece, set within an open box frame. This forthright character is perceived in Saskia herself, casually polished and quietly assured.

Panels are not named, only numbered, from USA #01 to USA #30. Other than a reference to Marcel Duchamp — Saskia identifies with his theory of ‘readymade’ or ‘found objects’ — she does not press conceptual meaning, instead asking her guests, ‘What do you see?’

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Saskia tells stories of how each panel was found. (In one, bullet holes, long rusted, had strategically targeted the back door only.) Another story is the origin of her craft: while working for desert artists, she saw in abandoned cars qualities of beauty reminiscent of fine art. That quality is as accessible as landscapes, as tactile as etching, and of our time. With her angle-grinder and photographer’s intuition, Folk is creating uncommon art. Modernist enthusiasts, take note.

– Maloti

For more of Saskia Folk’s work, visit her website. ‘Panel Work USA’ will be shown 7-10 September 2017 at Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks.

Image credit: Saskia Folk.