Riches combines two black, triangular Perspex panels displayed at eye level. These panels are joined together along their longest edges at a ninety degree angle and slotted into a corner where the walls meet. Black rods fashioned in ‘V’ shapes are attached to the panels, protruding into the space between them. Whatever angle the sculpture is viewed from, the rods appear entirely contained with the edges of the Perspex. They produce a criss-crossing design and, as the Perspex is shiny, the visual effect of the rods is multiplied by reflections. Differentiating between the rods and their black background draws the viewer’s gaze into the dark and reflective depth of the sculpture.
Born in Dublin, Rothschild studied Fine Art at the University of Ulster, Belfast (1990–3) and at Goldsmith’s College, London (1997–9). She produced Riches for her solo exhibition at the South London Gallery in 2007. The glossy black colour of Riches is also characteristic of much of her output. Speaking in 2003, Rothschild explained: ‘The black sculptures are essentially all planar and two-dimensional; they become three-dimensional only through how they are placed together. The reflectivity adds a depth that really isn’t there materially.’ (Quoted in Slyce, p.83.) Equally, triangles are an important motif in Rothschild’s work. The wall-hanging sculpture Stairway 2005 is made of interlocking wooden triangles painted red and black (reproduced in Eva Rothschild, exhibition catalogue, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin 2005, pp.22–3) and the dramatic and complex installation Cold Corners, commissioned for the Duveens Galleries at Tate Britain in 2009, which comprises twenty-six connected black triangles fashioned from aluminium tubing that form a huge, zig-zagging framework the viewer can walk through. In Riches triangles appear both as solid panels made from Perspex and as interlocking frames made from wooden rods.
Rothschild’s frequent use of strictly geometric forms and industrial materials suggests the hard-edged character of minimalism. She is concerned with materiality and process rather than with creating narratives or with investing her works with specific meanings. However, to Rothschild, her sculptures engage with the ways that different forms can suggest or engender meanings or associations. She has commented: ‘I am interested ... in the ways people look at things; how people bring their narrative modes of looking to things ... [B]ut the objects themselves aren’t the same as the things people want or imagine them to be.’ (Quoted in Ruf, p.11.) She believes that the impact of the work is bound up with its ambiguity of meaning: ‘For me, making work is about creating something experiential – visual, physical, spatial – but also something that refuses legibility, or an immediate summing-up. It just is itself. I guess I have a phenomenological take on it.’ (Quoted in Slyce, p.83.)
The title Riches cannot be easily explained. Part of Rothschild’s strategy to prevent her work from being subjected to a limited interpretation lies with the titles, which are deliberately non-descriptive and ambiguous though nevertheless important. To Rothschild, a title functions ‘almost like a speech version of the work’ (quoted in Ruf, p.13). They emerge in the process of making when the ‘right kind of phrase’ comes to attach itself to the sculpture (Eva Rothschild in Conversation, Tate Britain, London, 6 October 2009).
Clarrie Wallis, ‘Eva Rothschild’, in Beatrix Ruf and Clarrie Wallis (eds.), Tate Triennial 2006: New British Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2006, pp.128–31.
Beatrix Ruf, ‘An Introduction and a Conversation’, Eva Rothschild, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle, Zurich 2004.
John Slyce, ‘Random Rules: Eva Rothschild and Keith Tyson’, Flash Art, vol.36, no.231, July–September 2003, pp.82–5.