The rich hues of Franz West’s Garden Pouf
evoke feelings of positivity that encourage the viewer to interact with the work. For the artist, colour signifies “saying yes to life. That is very important because, when I started, my things were saying no to all the dictates from above. Now that’s changed” (Franz West cited in: Neal Benezra, Brice Curiger and Robert Fleck, Ed., Franz West
, London 1999, pp. 12-13). Like many of his public sculptures, Garden Pouf
evokes images of the human form. West is inspired by the anonymous, everyday body and often finds inspiration in the organic forms found there. Furthermore, the artist designs his sculptures to encourage public interaction, believing that such an interaction will activate his work and release its performative potential. To this end, West goes beyond optical stimulants and focuses on the tactility of his works, enticing the viewer with the crinkle of aluminium or the fold of papier-mâché. The textured surface of Garden Pouf
begs to be touched while its broad base offers an inviting perch for passers-by to stop and rest. Following West’s stylistic trend of the late 1990s and early 2000s, this work boldly references erotic imagery; the clearly phallic form undisguised in its resemblance to its bodily referent. The artist’s aim in doing so was to evoke imagery with connotations of pleasure, a message which is accented by the exuberant yellow hues of this work.
Throughout his career, West has challenged traditional notions of sculpture. “His sculptures avoid all the qualities required of ‘serious’ twentieth-century sculpture, and yet, at the same time, they remain recognizable as sculptures. They are impressive in their potential to express aspects of the physic, the sexual, the corporeal, and are characterized by their intense tactility. West’s works have almost nothing to do with the smooth, well-measured, often geometric forms that make up the vocabulary of high Modern sculpture. Nor are they beholden to functional industrial design, with its stylized surfaces, which has provided the tactic model for much sculpture in recent decades” (Ibid., p. 27). Instead, West’s sculptures follow in the tradition of French Art Informel movement of the 1940s and 50s and are largely influenced by the ritualistic performances of the Viennese Actionists in the 60s and 70s. At once light-hearted and deeply philosophical, West’s oeuvre redefined sculpture for the modern age.