Karin Sander, who has shown widely throughout the world, is among the preeminent artists of her generation. Her recent body of work, involving small human figures standing on pedestals, challenges just about every aspect of what has traditionally constituted figurative sculpture. Sander’s figures are not made by hand at all and reveal nothing of the her own touch or subjectivity. Instead, they are made by an advanced technological process of 3-D photographic body-scanning in the one machine in Germany that does this sort of thing, usually for the fashion industry, leading to a computerised, layer by layer construction (fused deposition modeling, to be precise) in ABS plastic, a commercial acrylic, and finally an application of precise, airbrushed color by a technician.
Sander has so far invited friends, associates, and virtual strangers to be scanned, and the results are intensely—also eerily— human, right down to the nuances of expressions, creases in clothes, postures, eye color, and hairdos. It is like looking not at miniature sculptures but at miniaturised people, usually shrunk to a scale of 1:10, although Sander has also experimented with different sizes. All the big and tiny details of the body are there, but then so too are pronounced high tech traces, like a slight blurring of the features, arising from how photographic images are sent through the computer and then brought back to the acrylic, and the ridges of the uniform, circular layers from which the figures are comprised. While Sander has completely dispensed with traditional notions of craft or a personal touch with tools and materials, her figures remain enormously sculptural and visually engaging: just not via hands-on effort in the studio, but through a seamless integration of photography, computers, mechanical production, and industrial collaboration.
- Gregory Volk