As one of the eight contemporary artists enlisted by IKEA to design pieces for their fourth annual Art Event, the two-person Coarse studio created a new character for production as a limited edition glass figurine. Aesthetically reminiscent of the duo’s Cold Ways creations, the allegorical visual narrative which this new design is actually intended to be part of, this fox character’s story diverges from the tale that’s already been told.

A Brief History of Coarse and Cold Ways

In 2002, German artist Mark Landwehr began working on a sculpture he titled flake and fluid, figurative renditions of a skateboarder and a surfer respectively. After months of sculpting, casting pieces in resin, hand-painting them, and sewing clothes, photographs of the finished works were published in Lodown Magazine, which attracted the attention of Vans, who finance a production version of the pieces a year later. And thus Coarse was born. But it wasn’t until 2007, when Sven Waschk joined the studio, that things started coalescing towards their current direction. A year later, with the False Friends exhibition, Landwehr and Waschk unveiled their first non-human character and began creating pieces as a form of storytelling, aspects that have guided the duo ever since, including their recent Cold Ways period of works.

With focal characters Raccoon and Fish first introduced at 2014’s Prisoners Beside Me exhibition, Waschk notes that, “in the Cold Ways universe, we like giving our animal characters everyman titles that strip them down to their most basic selves”, thus allowing “us to give the narrative a classic, fable feel which contrasts with our stories’ dark and mature themes”. With the tale behind these characters unfolding initially through a short story accompanying their limited edition vinyl set Permanent Guest (2015), this was expanded upon the following year with the Cold Ways exhibition and the coinciding debut of their saga’s eponymously titled novella. As for their design for the IKEA Art Event 2018, the duo “consider the fox to exist somewhere on the edges of the Cold Ways narrative”, explains Waschk. “She is a creature [that] Raccoon and Fish might have passed on their long journey”, he elaborates, “but she has too many worries of her own that she never would have let herself get wrapped up in their doomed voyage”.

IKEA Art Event 2018: Coarse’s Look into my eyes

For their IKEA Art Event 2018 contribution, Coarse felt “it was important to bring a new character to our audience”, Waschk says, “but also create something clearly recognizable as a descendant of our body of work”, achieved by making it aesthetically part of their Cold Ways series. “Our stories often reveal themselves to us as we begin sculpting”, explains Waschk, elaborating that early in the process the duo “were not sure how to show the figure” and thus “began experimenting with different poses” for their concept. “The resting pose lends itself well to glass”, he continues, “and it also underlines the character of our fox, who is somewhere between hiding from the world and combing through her own thoughts to figure out how to survive”. With the blue tone it is presented in amplifying “the impression that the fox is surrounded by a kind of frosty loneliness”, as Waschk describes it, the duo also felt that “if her soul had a color, this would be it”. As for the narrative secretly guiding these emotions and motivations, this limited edition glass figurine depicts a fox who “may, in fact, be very clever, but she also may have been outsmarted by humans’ endless greed”, with Waschk further mentioning that it is her “environment [which] is being taken away from her by humans”. And all these aspects culminated in the title of the work, as the “piece itself is called Look into my eyes, which is an invitation for collectors to consider what the fox might be thinking”, Waschk states. “We want you to look into her eyes and consider why she might be so stunned and withdrawn. Or, perhaps,” he continues, “when you look in her eyes, you see a fox who is smart, ruthless, and contemplating her next move.”

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