Galerie Fons Welters - Amsterdam

Magali Reus – Of Root

For Of Root Magali Reus presents works from her most recent series Landings, What Grows and Clementine. It is the first time the works are shown in the Netherlands, after their premiere in several museum solo exhibitions throughout Europe. All three series presented here, speak of how the western world has been cultivating a highly manipulated and controlled relationship to the perception of nature and the natural. The representation of nature traditionally finds its precedents in art historical still life painting, imbued with all its weighted symbolism. Reus is interested in how we have been constructing our concept of nature and position towards the natural world; thinking of it as ‘sculptural and pictorial matter’ which allows endless manipulation, to the point of erasure and confusion of its roots or origins.

Reus began the series Landings in summer 2021 in her hometown of The Hague, photographing fruit and sliced cabbage against the backdrop of construction debris found in skip bins – heaped rubble, plaster dust, spent paint cans, and splintered floorboards. Reframed as surreal and enlarged fruit bowls, the containers twist the tradition of Low Country still life painting, inviting meditation on the incongruities of our relation to nature, artifice and ephemeral life. The photographs are embedded into sculptural frames of powder-coated steel, layered on a reconstructed childhood painting of the artist. The steel frame contains letters and numbers welded onto its sides along with swatches of tarpaulin and twisted wire. These markings convey abbreviations of months and the miles travelled by the crop from its place of harvest to its place of documentation.

Magali Reus: “Landings is a meditation on the selective manipulation of crops for particular traits. Not displayed in the common domestic fruit bowl, the exotic fruit and cabbage portrayed in these photographs find themselves positioned on a new surreal stage, documented among the debris of construction skips throughout the city. Shot in macro detail, the fruits are character portraits of sorts, that find themselves – sometimes exuberant, other times shy – posing among the refuse of renovated homes. I was interested in the constructed image of nature, in this case the fruit bowl within our domestic spaces of consumption. Fruit pictured in Landings is subtended by global logistics networks of commerce: agricultural, geographical and financial markets are all integral (invisible) markers to the existence of a single piece of fruit in the transactional space of the supermarket.”

What Grows consists of three components: flexing tape measures constructed in welded and heat-forged steel, bags of substitute food produce rendered in sand, and aluminium sheet flower boxes containing domesticated plant species. These works measure space, as well as time, in the form of expiration dates and memorable dates of communal activities.

Magali Reus: “The graphics found on the skins of the bags are of processed or ‘substitutional’ foods: for example, a powdery liquid milk substitute rendered as soft cheese. They are part of the make-up of our contemporary foodstuffs where innovative processes allow familiar natural products to slip into unconventional shapes. Sand as a material is grounding and the most basic component for a range of construction materials. It continues to be synthesised into innovative technical processes, let alone widely-used ancient mixes, and into many material configurations: concrete, brick, glass, and other synthetic compounds. I am interested in the transformations that sand undergoes – its propensity. It’s alchemy. Where sand is conjured into many shapes through alchemical processes, a like trajectory awaits edible ingredients destined for consumption. These edibles manoeuvre the digestive tract but only after they’ve been transformed into the allure of a meal. The architecture of the domestic, the meal and lastly the body: they’re all containers encapsulating metabolic processes that find themselves in continuous flux. Returning to the sand, I was fascinated by the way the bags’ surfaces might be the same finish as their material substrate. Cut one through and it’s the same all the way. Whereas normally a weave, a plastic or a paper skin reassuringly holds the content, these bags’ skins and the material goods they purport to hold are deceivingly one and the same.”

The Clementine series, all modelled after preserve jars, protrude assertively from the wall. Their larger-than-life bodies allow glimpses into ambiguous domestic scenographies: miniature orchestrated mise-en-scènes of consumption and preservation – the various results of small quotidian actions. Jam and preserves jars speak of authenticity: of the earnest and the reliable. It represents a comfort many crave. A grandmother’s self-made conserves, found stored away in pantries and cupboards, is the ultimate, most valued example.

The conserve jar’s aesthetic is one that is endlessly re-appropriated, recycled and re-utilised. Typically this occurs through companies’ re-appropriation of the much valued ‘homemade’ quality (i.e. the look of the jar, with its handwritten label logo (an archetypical older generation’s french handwriting); and its economy of shape.

Ironically, it’s these mass-produced jars which become re-appropriated once located back in the domestic context after the contents have been consumed. The newly empty jars become carriers for a diversity of things: some may contain delicious sweet garden fruits and pickled vegetable, while others disjointedly find an entrance into realms of the DIY, storing rusty nails, elastic bands and the like. Aside from internal reconfigurations or ‘guts’, their external facades become canvases of domestic graffiti bearing handwritten scribbles and notations; labels of all kinds stuck on their sides; lids being switched about. Annotated with dates, names, contents, decorations and the like, the jars and their new guises become highly customised and personalised objects of expression: a portraiture and a valuable relic of a very individualised and intimate moment, past or present.

The origin of preservation is ‘conserved’ in the Clementines: the lids variably operate as clock-faces, thermostats, weather forecasts, and include references to locations (geographical as well as personal), and time, seasonal, cyclical, past and future. The Clementines are marriages of both commercial and personal harvests, jarringly juxtaposed and newly co-existing as hybrid portraits of both their past lives and future forecasts.

Magali Reus (1981, The Hague, Netherlands) lives and works in London, UK. Upcoming and recent solo exhibitions include CAPC Bordeaux, France (2027); Museum Beelden Aan Zee, Den Haag, NL (2026); Kunstmuseum, Den Haag, NL (2025); Museum Kurhaus Kleve, DE (all 2024); Museo del Novecento, Milan, IT; Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels, BE; Kunsthalle Bratislava, SK; CAC la Synagogue de Delme, FR; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, BE (all 2023); The Approach, London, UK; François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, USA; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, USA; South London Gallery, London, UK (2018); Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, NO; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, CH (both 2017); Mustard, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, NL; Quarters, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, IT (both 2016); Spring for a Ground, SculptureCenter, New York, USA; Particle of Inch, The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, UK; Halted Paves, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, DE (all 2015).

Reus has been included in group exhibitions and screenings at Tate Britain, London; ICA, London; CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson; Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover; Fridericianum, Kassel; LUMA Westbau, Zürich; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea, Lisbon; De Appel, Amsterdam and the British Art Show 8 (touring).

Reus was awarded the 7th edition of the Arnaldo Pomodoro Sculpture Prize in 2024; awarded a residency at the Atelier Calder Studio, from the Alexander Calder Foundation 2023; shortlisted for the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture 2018, and in 2015 was awarded The Prix de Rome. Her work is included in international collections including Tate Collection, UK; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Centraal Museum, Utrecht; The Hepworth, Wakefield, UK; Collection CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale- on Hudson; Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen; Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France, Dunkerque; Lafayette Anticipation — Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, Paris; LAM Museum, Lisse; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Arts Council Collection, UK; The Government Art Collection, London; David Roberts Art Foundation, London; The Perimeter, London.