Interview with Kris Ruhs, Landing on Earth, The Wapping Project, London

Landing on Earth, a new exhibition by Milan based American artist and maker, Kris Ruhs, inhabits The Wapping Project during the London Design Festival and Frieze Art Fair with three new works installed in the Boiler House. An idiosyncratic artist, Ruhs is a maker of sculpture, furniture, environments, ceramics, paintings, books and crafted glass, turning his hand to almost anything in his industrial spaces in Milan.

Landing on Earth will reflect three aspects of the studios. The entry installation is an 11 metre by 4.5 metre veil of metal through which shards of light and space can be seen. This separation shatters the unity of the Boiler Room’s volume and allows the audience to carve out what it might see. The second installation in the centre will be a series of 240 raku ceramic trees illuminated and suspended from the ceiling. Sitting below is the ‘bowl of heaven’, a highly polished rotating seat that allows the visitor to spin, looking up or down into the suspended forest. Finally the third construction is built of rubber rescued near Ruhs’ studio in Morocco, that much like the Boiler House itself, was waiting for the right transformational moment to become something new and other; in this case a moving labyrinth bringing together physical sensation, light and dark.

Aesthetica spoke to Kris Ruhs about Landing on Earth and what we can expect to see from him in the future.

A. Your career as an artist is expansive and varied. Where did it all begin for you?
When I was young, building things, making models, painting and drawing were all things I loved. I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1970. At the time it was an unaccredited and very “downtown” type of art laboratory with leading painters, photographers, graphic designers, fabric painters, all amazing talents recognized in the New York City art scene and supporting this radical new teaching studio environment. Needless to say it was a great time for me and gave me the knowledge that anything I wanted to touch was there for artistic exploration.

A. Can you tell us about Landing on Earth?
Landing on Earth grew out of the incredible space available at Wapping. Now that it is empty of water, it let me explore and discover what this particular space really is; the ground of it; the underneath, the earth of it, and how I might engage it.

A. There is a focus on light and space in your work. Can you expand on this?
Over the last several years, the physical aspect of my work – the use of three dimensions – has overtaken the two dimensional paintings and drawings and this has certainly strengthened my exploration of light and space. This focus however is always in partnership with process. The process of light moving through, around and over a surface is key to how I see my work. Time creates the space for the light to be seen.

A. Your work is not restricted by mediums and materials, what are the enabling factors for this, and what is the attraction for you to develop your skill?
I think I develop my skillset the most when I open my eyes and see what is available in the day. I have always loved to play with different materials and I often use what I can find, what is on the street, or discards. Not to make a statement but because touching and seeing and making are all useful in creating the pieces and immediacy plays an important role.

A. What were your main concerns for working with London Design Festival and Frieze Art Fair?
KR: I live in Milan where I have shown a number of installations and furnishings that are a combination of my design work and my art. An interesting challenge as I find the distinction has little impact on my creative processes, only in the after applications. When I was invited to Wapping, I thought it would be interesting and then when I considered the space at Wapping it was an immediate yes.

A. What can we expect to see from you in the future?
That is the question I ask myself every day as I walk into the studio. It makes life interesting. To say I really have no idea is a bit ingenuous, but I can say I enjoy the process of creation and exploration, and I will always look for ways to express it personally and present it publicly as opportunities come forward.

Kris Ruhs, 13th September until 21st October, The Wapping Project, Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, Wapping Wall, London, E1W 3SG.

Photos by Tom Medwell.

Also, watch an interview with Kris Ruhs with talking about Landing on Earth.