Franziska Warzog: The Joy of Tactility

A person in a costume

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Franziska Warzog, Creature covered by tongues, textile sculpture, 2008, 134 x 27 x 12 cm, (52.8 x 10.6 x 4.7 in), photo taken by the artist’s husband

The Hanover based artist Franziska Warzog makes textile sculptures characterized by bold shapes and vivid colors reminiscent of patterns in nature. As a daughter of two visual artists, she was introduced to design principles since early on.

Tell me a bit more about yourself and what brought you to textile art.

I was always supposed to be an artist, but I did not want to be one until my early twenties, when I studied ethnology, which did not feel suitable for me. I wanted to tell something in a creative way.

I painted in oils and acrylics on wood and canvas for several years until I suddenly became allergic to those paints. Thereafter, I grabbed an old knitted fabric and created my first sculpture. I was filled with a sensation of self-forgetfulness, as if I was getting lost in a game like a child.

Creating textile sculptures is simpler, more elemental, and possibly more magical in a sense that different materials have been so tightly bound together by needle and thread that they are very difficult to separate again. They are also more haptic, more real to experience. I like textile material because it is warm, knitted or woven and thus resembles natural tissue like our skin, fur or plant-grown materials such as leaves or bark. Because of the similarity to these natural materials, I think textile material is very suitable to achieve organic or erotic artistic statements. The sculpture Creature covered by tongues combines an erotic statement with my desire to have a being that can speak all languages and therefore connects me to the “outside” many times over.

A person wearing a colorful dress

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Franziska Warzog, Aus der Schale schauend (Looking out of the shell), textile sculpture, 2020, 60 x 30 x 28 cm (23.6 x 11.8 x 11.0 in)

Your textile objects remind me of biomorphic forms and patterns from the natural world. Can you elaborate on the resources for your work, and your process overall?

Nature with its infinite and unattainably wonderful forms of expression is always a source of inspiration for me, even though or probably because I was deprived of it during my metropolitan and very sheltered childhood in Amsterdam.

I first got to know nature as a representation of the natural in photographs or through artists such as Ernst Haeckel. In his works natural shapes appear stricter and more geometric than they are. My impression of this “translated nature” was reinforced by my parent’s abstract art and the African masks they collected at that time.

Actually, I can see in my sculptures that elementary and reduced forms as well as strict geometric structures are more familiar to me than purely organic ones. No matter what title I give a sculpture, they do not seem too real or similar to nature to me, more like the natural as free reflections.

A picture containing wall, indoor, colorful, blue

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Franziska Warzog, Geschnittene Frucht (Sliced fruit), textile sculpture, 2021, 80 x 40 x 14 cm (31,5 x 15,8 x 5,5 in)

I am looking at your earlier sculpture Kuchentier (Cake animal) for example. What can you share about the idea behind this sculpture, the title, the process of making it and how do you exhibit it?

This sculpture Kuchentier (Cake animal) is a relatively new one. It was created in 2020. I was intrigued by the idea of using a small, formal alienation of the familiar, to make the sculpture perceived as different from a cake as we know it. Thus, the cake is not surrounded by cream, but by structures interspersed with bright worms. The cake appears both disgusting and festive at the same time. The viewer and I face something new, the cake animal. So far, I keep it in my property.

A close-up of a flower

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Franziska Warzog, Kuchentier (Cake animal), textile sculpture, 2020, 12 x 35 x 35 cm (4,7 x 13,8 x 13,8 in)

In your more recent work (IG) Was im Körper blühen könnte (What may bloom inside the body) you seem to develop and elaborate on the earlier work. What would you like to share about this work and how do see it in relation to your earlier sculpture?

This sculpture has a more serious message than, for example, the Cake animal. It reflects a deep longing. During the process of creation, the sculpture was very strange to me. It seemed frightening, because it looked as if I wanted to represent removed organs or an animal sacrifice.

However, I never want to create something that is just disturbing. It is acceptable to be disturbing, but I am also always looking for something joyful for balance, a kind of way out. Therefore I did not want this textile, the red arrangement of shapes, to represent something dead, but something that could live in a hiding place, in the body and in a hopeful, beautiful way – flourish.

Do you make wearable sculptures?

I do not create wearable sculptures. However, it is inherent in my objects that they are created from wearable, textile material and that they can be arranged well in front of the body, where they act as its continuation or complement.

A picture containing red, plant, several

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Franziska Warzog, Was im Körper blühen könnte (What may bloom inside the body), textile sculpture, 2021, 72 x 45 x 24 cm (28.4 x 17.7 x 9.5 in)

Wie ein lebendiger Fels (Like a living rock) has an intriguing composition of vertical lines, bold patterns, gravity and airiness. What is the idea behind this piece and how did you come up with the composition and color scheme?

Like a living rock corresponds formally to the structure of African masks as I have perceived them in childhood. I have chosen a two-part form that reminds me of lungs or two heart chambers, which I have embroidered with an arrangement of wooden beads in White and Red. I associate these colors with the interior of the body. Out of this basic form horns arise, overgrown with floral shapes. Like my What may bloom inside the body the Living rock is a sculpture that defiantly asserts life. For me it radiates something fortified, solid, and solemn.

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Franziska Warzog, Wie ein lebendiger Fels (Like a living rock), textile sculpture, 2021, 54 x 44 x 18 cm (21.3 x 17.3 x 7.1 in)

Your wall pieces seem to be structured on a grid. As for example in Hängend aus dem großen Blauen (Hanging out of the great blue). How do you think your approaches to wall reliefs differs from your approach to fully 3 dimensional sculptures?

The sculpture Hanging out of the blue is a new work as well. Its five parts were designed in three dimensions and then connected with ribbons. There was a short creative period, when I preferred to use up sculptural elements on a canvas and to sew them down. I had already worked exclusively three-dimensional before, but during that period I wanted to combine my early experiences in painting with the relief-like, textile work into something new.

At that time, I also created “textile paintings” such as Sprossen (Sprouts), Fischhaut (Fish skin) or Gebettet (Bedded). I worked this way for about two years until I found my way back into three-dimensional design. It was for the reasons mentioned above that moved me to do so, the joy of the haptics of the sculptures and their immediate experience in space in particular.

Franziska Warzog, Hängend aus dem großen Blauen (Hanging out of the great blue), 2020, 82 x 52 x 12 cm (32.3 x 20.5 x 4.7 in);

Franziska Warzog, Sprossen (Sprouts), textile picture, 2017/21, 70 x 50 x25 cm (27.6 x 19.7 x 9.8 in)

For me there is a strong sense of the sensual and drama in your sculptures. For instance, Herbstfrüchte tragendes Wesen (Autumn fruits bearing being). What is the story behind this sculpture?

The sculpture Autumn fruits bearing being was created in the autumn of 2020. I was looking at the heaviness, and if you will, the bitterness that lies in the fact that the fruits of many plants are so ripe that they are about to fall into the earth to die and bring forth new life.

The purple color, a deep and somehow painful color, symbolizes this state of the represented being between the vital and the otherworldly. The green at the top of the sculpture completes the triad of secondary colors and symbolizes new, germinating life. What I have depicted is ultimately the birthing of orange fruits by a purple flower.

A picture containing flower, plant, poppy

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Franziska Warzog, Herbstfrüchte tragendes Wesen (Autumn fruits bearing being), textile sculpture, 2020, 45 x 35 x 35 cm (17.7 x 13.8 x 13.8 in)

All photo courtesy of the artist unless otherwise indicated

Franziska Warzog, nee Cohnen was born in 1966 as the daughter of an artist couple in Amsterdam. Since 1973 she lived in Holzminden, Germany, where she spent her school years. Then she studied Ethnology and German Philologie at the University of Göttingen, graduating with a Magister artium. During her studies she created her first works in oil on wood and canvas. For two years she lived in Oldenburg (Oldenburg), where she continued her paintings in oil and acrylic. Since 1998 she lives in Hanover. Here she began to work mainly with textile materials. Three-dimensional sculptures were created, then relief-like paintings, before a phase of sculptural work followed again. Franziska Warzog is married, mother of two daughters and grandmother of two grandchildren.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: