Franz Ehmann is an Austrian/Australian artist, a chef and a beekeeper, who lives and works in Brisbane, Queensland. Working with installation, sculpture and performance, his works are based on food production, materials related to cooking, consumption and waste.
Franz Ehmann’s series, collectively titled Fourteen Days, was made in a unique partnership between the artist and his backyard bees. Ehmann folded men’s cotton business shirts into neat rectangles and coated and stiffened them with wax before inserting them in place of the frames in the honey box of his beehive. When he drew them out after a fortnight, the insects had built up wax cell structures all over the cloth, encrusting their surfaces with a delicate, geometrically-precise three-dimensional hexagonal honeycomb design. Through the ornamental coating, you can still recognise the outlines of the original garments. Fittingly they are displayed in the gallery with a flat frontality like traditional bas-relief sculptures which, in some strange sense, they are. The beehive is a safe space that is defended determinedly by the bees. They emit pheromones to warn one another of attacks, and also sting intruders. The artist nonetheless succeeds in invading their territory. The social arrangement of a bee population is called a colony and Ehmann’s artistic approach is to perform, ever-so-subtly, a colonising act on the bees; intruding into and occupying their space so as to exploit their labour in the making of his art. The bees’ secretions that smother the shirts may appear as a type of defensive mechanism to contain and neutralise an invasive threat.
Christine Toussainte Morrow