The Age of Bronze (L'Âge d'airain) was modelled by the renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1876. Rodin’s first recognised masterpiece, it represented a melding of past, present and future; drawing from Greco-Roman influences, the sculpture demonstrated a previously unseen sense of naturalism and humanistic ambiguity (something that caused waves of initial criticism) whilst also marking the start of a new epoch for modern sculpture. Its provenance includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musée d'Orsay and Salon in Paris amongst countless others.

The Age of Bronze can, perhaps unexpectedly, also be seen here in Skulptura, albeit in a less recognisable formation than its classical iterations. In Koen Hauser’s rendition, the realism Rodin casted in bronze has been traded for the aesthetics of modernity and its computer driven counterparts of raster patterns, virtual metamorphose, image synthesis and CYMK colour spectrums, imbued by his reimagining of the iconic sculpture through software-based interventions. Such characteristics contribute to a version of Rodin’s masterpiece that is decidedly disparate from the original, yet retains its historical citation, settling somewhere (although it is difficult to say where) in between; microcosms of diffracted CYMK raster balloon outwards, obscuring the famed bodily shapes and lines whilst the new yellowness of the photograph is astutely reflected in the title of the piece, Citrinitas. The term, derived from alchemic practices, refers to the transmutation of silver to gold, not only alluding to the colour in the specific photograph, but more so to the critical notions of alchemy, philosophical thought and experimentation that underpin the work as a whole.

Skulptura is postmodern alchemy, weaving a tapestry of divergent threads from bronze statues, haute couture, iconic photographs of the twentieth century, anatomical models from Dutch institutions and a myriad of archival material from a diverse set of historical books that represent Hauser’s incessant intrigue in the past. 

Yet in replacement of the archaic workings of traditional alchemy, the assortment of digital rendering processes Hauser uses (except for a sparse number of undisclosed sculptures that Hauser has made from clay) has transmuted the source material into new photographic entities, assigning them previously unassociated colours, textures and forms that reveal a liminal world created from his ceaseless imagination. Artifacts that were previously bound by the static condition of the archive have been given new movement, context and meaning; the historical fertilised by the contemporary, far removed from their former solitary and representational functions to a place of constant oscillation. It is however intriguing to consider that the shrouded practices of antiquated alchemy still hold a palpable parallel to Skulptura. Where once it was the inner processes of the laboratories that were concealed behind cryptic symbolism, it is now the opaque software algorithms that dictate the software’s capabilities that are hidden from the viewer. Because of this, there is a persistent sense of wonderment that ripples through Skulptura, stemming from the alluring uncertainty as to the extent of reality that is in front of us and the possibilities that such a space prompts.

Whilst it is easy for the omnipresent idea of technology today to evoke thoughts of apathetic binary perspectives, unfathomable workings and data dominated by colossal, abstract notions, this isn’t the technology of Skulptura. Here it is harnessed akin to a brush, wetted with virtual paint and ink before being handed to Hauser to connect imagination and execution in a poetic dialect, at times resembling the early Japanese art of marbling, Suminagashi. Skulptura is also neither simply a compounding of technologies and archives to create new forms for us to look at in awe of their visual arrangements; the archival fragments included in the original installation (allowing us a momentary view into the connectedness of Hauser’s thinking) are the agents to catalyse conversations surrounding mythology, animism, consumerism, technology, fashion, history and art. We start to draw out our own thoughts alongside Hauser’s fluid nexus of sculptural forms, skipping back and forth through a work that continually exhibits a profound and genuine sense of fascination for the past, present and future.