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Sculpting sensations: 'Devouring Lovers' by Eva Fàbregas

Exploring the Barcelona-based artist’s unconventional relationships with sculpture, space, and the spectator.

by Aarthi MohanPublished on : Aug 17, 2023

What are the limitations of desire? How can a feeling be transmitted through and with objects? Challenging traditional perceptions of sculpture, representation, and human interaction, Spanish artist Eva Fabregas creates an immersive journey into the world of desire, intimacy, and material transformation with her monumental installation titled, Devouring Lovers. The designer's debut solo exhibition, hosted at Hamburger Bahnof’s main historic hall, unfurls a mesmerising tapestry of sensual, vegetal, animalistic and mineral forms in 70 colourful sculptures that traverse the boundaries of gender, inviting visitors to delve into a place where materiality, tactility, and community intertwine in unexpected ways.

Interwoven biomorphic sculptures| Devouring Lovers | Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Interwoven biomorphic sculptures Image: Jacopo Laforgia

At the core of Fàbregas’s work lies an exploration of the profound ability of emotions to find expression through inanimate objects. This large-scale installation captures the essence of this search as flesh-like sculptures wind around the hall’s metal girders, like devouring lovers. Some tapering on the floor but many crawling up the walls and ceilings, these structures create a surreal impression of organs growing from metal. Slight vibrations infuse them with an uncanny vitality, reinforcing the impression of living tentacles. Emerging from the side aisles, it climbs up the skeletal steel girders and winds around the arches, breathing its own life into the space. The tentacles that grasp the metal structures are also gently vibrating, and it is not immediately clear whether these are protuberances of a shared body, or if each is leading an aggressively expanding life of its own. The malleable objects seem to be toying with the skeletal structure, highlighting the formal and sculptural interplay between statics and stasis. 

Devouring lovers at the Hamburger Bahnhof gallery in Berlin| Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas |STIRworld
Devouring lovers at the Hamburger Bahnhof gallery in Berlin Image: Jacopo Laforgia

Here, Fàbregas skillfully blurs the boundaries between the organic and the mechanic creating an experience that transcends conventional artistic mediums. The hall, once a train station metamorphoses into a living, breathing organism; a testament to this visual artist's ability to invoke an emotional response through the harmonious blend of form and substance.

Materiality of sculptural objects (Left) Reminiscent of body organs (Right) | Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas |STIRworld
Left: Materiality of sculptural objects; Right: Reminiscent of body organs Image: Jacopo Laforgia

Working with soft and malleable materials, Fàbregas’s artistic language embraces tactile engagement, and physical intimacy, which enables viewers to interact with her creations through touch. Her sculptures are often reminiscent of body organs and voluptuous glands, which evoke both a familiarity and a sense of ethereal allure. The outer sleeves are made of lycra—a fabric typically used in swimwear—and are given volume by the inflatable balls they contain. The stretchable property of lycra generates a potential for movement and sound that is converted into kinetic energy by the vibrating metal balls that are also distributed inside the tubes. Fàbregas aims to fully inhabit the world of the senses, creating sculptures that invoke emotions that resonate through the language of materiality.

Bulbous protrusions, tubes and membranes | Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Bulbous protrusions, tubes and membranes Image: Jacopo Laforgia

Fàbregas’s exploration extends beyond the confines of human anatomy. Her gaze turns to prosthetics as well as non-human life forms such as corals, polyps, and the reproductive parts of plants. This expansion of perspective bridges the gap between the human and the non-human, prompting contemplation on the interconnectedness of all life forms and their shared experiences of desire, growth and existence. The designer’s practice is an ode to tactile intimacy, a symposium of sensorial connections and somatic explorations. She often uses elastic, inflatable materials to produce her objects and art installations, which recall organic entities, bulbous protrusions, tubes, and membranes. She achieves synesthetic effects by combining soft, skin-like fabrics with pale colors and biomorphic forms, as well as by merging materiality, acoustics, and site-specific presentation.

Art of Somatic engagement |Devouring Lovers | Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Art of somatic engagement Image: Jacopo Laforgia

In a union of art and embodiment, Fàbregas reshapes our proprioception, somatics, and equilibrium. Her sculptures assert their own material means which invites us to “think with our fingers” and expand our understanding of community. Just as the sculptures redefine traditional art, they in turn challenge societal norms and coax us into a place of collective introspection and transformation.

Fàbregas’ synthesis of breathing | Devouring Lovers | Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Fàbregas’ synthesis of breathing Image: Jacopo Laforgia

The designer employs air as a sculptural medium, crafting volumes that transform our perception of self and space. Using tangible elements to generate volume is central to a number of artworks that have been presented at the Hamburger Bahnhof in recent years. Through her work, Fabregas holds a mirror to the fluidity of identity. She does not dream of endowing her creations with living force but rather considers her materials autonomous from the outset.

Symphony of colours, textures and shapes | Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Symphony of colours, textures and shapes Image: Jacopo Laforgia

Fàbregas likes to take a critical and humorous approach to the sculptural tradition of representing and imitating living forms: the synthesis of colours, shapes, and plasticity links the man-made with what appears to be naturally formed, the familiar with the unfamiliar. In her sculptural practice, she plays with art-historical allusions and materials that include categories such as assemblage, minimalism, installation, kinetics, and modernist sculpture, as well as references of the works of artists such as Robert Breer, Eva Hesse, Rebecca Horn and Alina Szapocznikow.

Embodies Ecologies| Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Embodies ecologies Image: Jacopo Laforgia

Against the backdrop of Hamburger Bahnhof’s legendary history, the Barcelona-based artist's works resonate with power. The vibrancy of her light-hued diverticula breathes life into the museum’s architecture, an exchange of metabolisms that transcends mere physicality. Within this interaction, a symphony of association unfolds such as the breath of an unborn child, the primal desire for existence, and the enigmatic synthesis of life and art.

Devouring lovers creates a sensuous spatial expression |Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
Devouring lovers creates a sensuous spatial expression Image: Jacopo Laforgia

As visitors journey through Fàbregas’s installation, they become participants in an exploration of desire’s myriad manifestations. In her art, she unravels the ties that bind emotions to the material world, offering a space where desire is not merely observed but experienced, where objects breathe with the life of their own, and where the boundaries between the artist, the audience and the artwork dissolve into a symphony of sensation.

A captivating dance between materiality and imagination | Devouring Lovers| Eva Fàbregas | STIRworld
A captivating dance between materiality and imagination Image: Jacopo Laforgia

The exhibition is on view until January 14, 2024 at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, Berlin.

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