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Raphael Hefti

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Raphael Hefti Empty Raphael Hefti

Post  eddie Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:49 pm

Artist of the week 176: Raphael Hefti

Swiss artist who pushes industrial processes to breaking point, conjuring dazzling mirrors out of museum glass and rainbow moonscapes out of burning plant spores

Skye Sherwin, Thursday 9 February 2012 13.32 GMT

Raphael Hefti Raphael-Heftis-Lycopodium-007
Plants from another planet ... detail from Raphael Hefti's Lycopodium, 2011. Photograph: Raphael Hefti/Ancient and Modern Gallery, London

Raphael Hefti's experiments push industrial processes and materials to the max – and take us back to a time when people mistook science for magic. His work includes fashioning steel pipes that shatter like glass, and pyrotechnic daredevilry where entire mountain landscapes are illuminated by magnesium flares sent soaring into the sky at 3,000C. In spite of such god-like exploits, the young Swiss artist is less a would-be Dr Frankenstein than a champion of the overlooked.

Born in 1978, Hefti started out as an apprentice specialising in electronics, before studying industrial design, photography and art. It was during his long sessions experimenting in the workshop that he developed a fascination for mechanical processes – particularly the amazing things that can happen when stuff goes wrong. His Damascene moment came when he saw a steel hammer break like a vase when it was accidently dropped in the brittle phase between two heating stages. While this event clearly had no place in the workaday world, it was something he could embrace as an artist. In 2010, he looked back to that workshop smash and created the first of his brittle steel bars, Replaying the Mistake of a Broken Hammer.

Hefti often works with factory craftspeople to divert things from their normal functions. In his current London solo debut, Launching Rockets Never Gets Old, giant panes of museum glass are propped against the walls of an airy gallery like magic mirrors. Instead of providing an invisible barrier between the public and the precious objects held in display cases, Hefti's glass is vividly coloured in hues of deep pink, blue and gold. It's a gorgeous effect created by amplifying the very process that normally makes the glass less noticeable: anti-reflective coating which the artist has had applied in many layers. Thinking far, far outside the box, he disrupts production line logic to create dazzling artistic feats.

Raphael Hefti Raphael-Heftis-Lycopodium-007
Experimental art ... Raphael Hefti's Lycopodium, 2011 was made by burning spores of the plant on photo paper. Photograph: Raphael Hefti/Ancient and Modern Gallery

Why we like him: For his series of photograms Lycopodium, where rainbow moonscapes are wrought by burning the spores of Lycopodium plants on photographic paper. Common to Scandinavia, the spores are highly combustible, so the plant is also known as "witches' powder".

Atomised: Hefti's dream collaborator would be Dr Peter Jenni, the man behind the Atlas Experiment, which is investigating the origins of the universe at the legendary Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland.

Where can I see him? Launching Rockets Never Gets Old, at Camden Arts Centre, London to 18 March 2012.
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