Life is messy. Must your bowl of fruit salad be as well? Ursus Wehrli says no.
If you’ve ever fought (or given into) the urge to colour-code your bookshelves, if surfing online porn means perusing the California Closets website, if the department-store change room on Boxing Day gives you the shakes, know that you have a friend in Wehrli, who has made his mark on this chaotic world by transforming visual cacophony into de-cluttered palettes of order.
In his first book, Tidying Up Art, Wehrli – a Swiss comedian, performer and artist – took works by modern masters and fixed them up into more rational, organized canvases.
“It’s a confusion of colour,” he complains about the Paul Klee painting Farbtafel in a 2006 TED talk.
“The artist doesn’t really seem to know where to put the different colours.” (Cue the laughter; this is funny.)
In his new book, The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy, Wehrli turns his attention to everyday objects and spaces, and makes art out of the transformation.
Targets include a parking lot, a barnyard, a Christmas tree, a bowl of alphabet soup. Even a lineup of grocery-store patrons – or, more specifically, their carts – is not immune. Beach umbrellas, French fries – he organizes them all: geometrically, chromatically, by size and always with whimsy.
Under Wehrli’s playful watch, an Ikea-type ballroom becomes a kind of large-scale pointillist flag for order; a bouquet is disassembled and we are reminded that it is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Marsha Lederman is The Globe and Mail’s Western arts correspondent.