piece by piece
I came across Oliver Laric’s work for the first time at Art Basel 2021. I was immediately drawn to his sculpture Oceanus, even though there were hundreds of other works exhibited all around me. The mythological figure resembled a three-dimensional collage and the sculpture comprised several elements with a completely different color and texture. Oceanus looked to me like a standalone figure created from three separate statues, that broke into equal pieces and were pieced together.
And this is indeed one of the Oliver Laric’s hallmarks. If we look at his other sculptures, we will quickly notice, that many of them are similar patchworks. The artist eagerly turns to ancient art for inspiration, only to reinterpret it in his own unique way. To this end, he uses the state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies, such as stereolithography (SLA for short) to create (non-)copies of classical sculptures.
Most of us think sculptures are a piece of wood or stone carved with a chisel, or a lump of clay molded with hands. Laric’s sculpts, meanwhile, go against that notion. His process can be roughly divided into three stages. The first is to scan the selected sculpture in order to render an ultra-detailed virtual 3D model. Then, the artist develops it using a dedicated software and prepares it for printing. The final stage is printing it out on a 3D printer. Sometimes a sculpture comes out as one element, that the artist later colors in a way, that makes transparent resin gain shading. Sometimes he also prints several pieces, each in a different color and structure, to make the statue look like a patchwork.
The work of Oliver Laric toys with the concept of tradition on multiple levels. The artist challenges the boundaries of sculpture by incorporating new technologies, where manual precision is replaced by specialized software and equipment. What once required extreme precision in the use of a hammer and chisel is now ceded to a 3D printer.
The fact, that some of Laric’s sculptures are three-dimensional patchworks, draws our attention to the fact, that many ancient works have survived to our times in pieces and we can’t know with certainty what they looked like when they first came out from under the artist’s chisel. Just look at how history treated the headless Nike of Samothrace or the armless Venus of Milo.
Laric also reinterprets old art. And even though he reproduces it in almost 1:1 ratio, he breathes into it a completely new personality, with ancient heroes being no longer carved in stone, but printed out synthetically. The sculptures also raise some important questions about authorship. After all, Laric isn’t the creator of the original work and someone might say that printing out a statue isn’t enough to call it art and assign copyright to someone else’s work. But it is precisely that idea, of using a unique technology and 3D printers that contradict the original material, that makes Laric’s works an art apart, even if strongly embedded in history.
Transl. Jakub Majchrzak