Basel-based Polish/Swiss artist Pawel Ferus convinces with his excellent craftsmanship and his sense of humor. From abstract to figurative and something in between, his work is at once lighthearted and deeply philosophical, abstract and figurative, political and full of witty references. Symbolic allusions of figuration are balanced by clean geometrical lines and forms inherent in the materials used. Time, posterity, memory, history, body and space are on his artistic agenda.
A trained stonemason, Ferus is at home with a multitude of materials and processes. Casting concrete, plaster, silicone, resin, bronze in addition to working with wood, marble and clay. He collects objects, such as beverage cans and bottles to blankets, carpets, shoes and clothes and repurposes them.
To understand and correctly situate his work, it is essential to engage with the artist’s conceptual superstructure – music, literature, philosophy, technology, consumption and appropriation are vital to his work. In particular, his interest in art history led him to take on artistic icons, which he deconstructs and re-contextualizes. The work of Alberto Giacometti is referenced time and again. Ferus’ “Femme de Venice Beach” is an homage to Giacometti’s work “Femme de Venise” (1956) in form and title. The concrete sculpture wears a pink and white-striped bikini top by the American Venice Beach-swim wear company. Contrary to Giacometti’s roughly cast, yet fragile and elegantly androgynous figure, Ferus’ “Femme de Venice Beach” consists of a geometric concrete solidly cast block, strengthened by construction armour.
Ferus likes to work with concrete. There are the “Ex Future Figures”, a pair of massive concrete blocs, one wearing light blue, the other one white man underpants.“Deep Sleep”, the horizontal “sleeping” concrete work, is wearing light blue Long Johns. The objects appear heavy and the light, almost transparent undergarments (cast into the blocks) seem surreal and out of place.
Ferus combines the abstract with the figurative and the metaphorical unit of the concrete blocks, undergarments and armour irons create a narrative by association. The concrete blocks could not be more minimalist, but the armour irons dominantly sticking out of the blocks help to tell a story. Does the underwear tell the story of its wearer to the viewer?
Pawel Ferus does not shy away from contemporary politics. One of the artist’s key works is entitled “Hodler’s Revenge” (2007). It directly references Ferdinand Hodler’s enigmatic painting “Der Holzfäller” which gained notoriety as it was prominently displayed in the office of former Swiss Federal Councilor Christoph Blocher, and by default, and for a while, became synonymous with the politician. Ferus translates the figure into the third dimension and replaces the ax by a baseball bat. Obviously a comment upon Blocher’s extreme nationalist and isolationist political agenda.
Pawel Ferus was born in Poland in 1973 and came to Switzerland as a teenager. After an apprenticeship in stone masonry, he graduated with a diploma in Fine Arts from the FHNW/HGK in Basel. He has been the recipient of many prizes and awards. His sculptures and installations are part of private and public collections in Switzerland, the United States, The Netherlands and South Africa. Ferus is politically active, contributes to public debates and discourses and participates regularly in nonprofit exhibitions and activities in the visual arts.