Dutch artist Magali Reus builds monumental sculptures of maddening delight

Published March 16, 2018

“This exhibition nearly killed me,” says Magali Reus in her London studio, referring to the ambitious body of work that she recently exhibited in Norway’s Bergen Kunsthall, and that will be reconfigured for a solo show this March at the South London Gallery. At the center of the 36-year-old Dutch artist’s new project isthe skeletal framework of a public bus, which serves as a starting point for a series of elegant,if inscrutable, abstract sculptures. “There are moments where you might see what could be awindow,” she says. “Or a wheel.” Such double takes are important to Reus, who has long reimagined everyday objects, stripping them of their intended utilitarian purpose, to challenge the viewer’s perception of space and form.

Growing up in the Hague, Reus became an avid collector of things—one of her more recent fixations is dice—and she revels in the autonomy they take on in her work. “I like the idea of an object being allowed to shed its normal function,” she says. But that doesn’t mean that her practice follows the simple formula of the ready-made. Reus’s sculptures involve delicate layers of weaving, embroidery, casting, and occasionally building objects—sometimes from scratch—until they work to create their own harmonious architecture in her large-scale pieces. This latest series doesn’t only grow out of public transportation; Reus is also incorporating her recent interest in Swedish and German decorative arts. “I’m seduced by the materiality of objects,” she says, “but I want them to throw out all of your expectations when you get up close.”