The winner of this year’s Manor Art Award, Sophie Jung (b. 1982) presents an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart featuring The Bigger Sleep, a work created especially for the occasion.
Jung’s art blends performance, sculpture, and writing. Her sculptures are usually composed of found workaday materials, which the artist assembles in new objects in order to transpose them into a novel horizon of meaning. Detritus such as a grotto fountain, military neckties, and black cat cuddly toys come together in surreal sculptures in which repetition and cross-references raise questions of original and copy, reality and fiction. These objects then serve as the basis and source of inspiration for Jung’s performances, in which the artist explores philosophical questions and current issues in society. At the heart of her work is a playful yet exceptionally complex engagement with language.
The title of her exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart alludes to “The Big Sleep,” a novel by Raymond Chandler that came out in 1939; Howard Hawks’s 1946 movie adaptation, now a film noir classic, portrays the illusions and disillusionment of Great Depression-era America on the eve of war. The artist’s performance takes inspiration from the novel’s atmosphere of disorganization and despair, gradually interweaving snippets of text and peculiar moods to build slapstick-like narratives that seem to defy all logic. Pinpointing the sensitivities of contemporary society, Jung’s stories throw the theatricality of the real and the authenticity of play-acting into relief. Harnessing the complexities of language, she makes subtle alterations to open up new dimensions of meaning.
The Bigger Sleep is a serene riddle that does not beckon to be unriddled. Yet its intractability is not a dead end, instead charting individual and auspicious escape routes that, the artist believes, offer a sense of purpose in a glossy but crumbling world of mirrors where nothing is as it seems.
Sophie Jung studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, and received a master’s degree in fine arts from Goldsmiths University, London. She has realized exhibitions and projects in Switzerland, England, and the United States. In 2016, her work was honored with the Swiss Art Award.
Endowed thirty-six years ago, the Manor Art Award promotes young Swiss visual artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, video art, and installation art. It is regarded as one of the most important awards for rising contemporary artists in Switzerland.