NOW LIVE: Visit our online exhibition - KINAESTHESIA: Art In Motion


Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen

Available for the first time, we are launching a collection of 32 original artworks by Pezo von Ellrichshausen from the last ten years. They include selected examples from five bodies of work that span drawing, acrylic, oil and watercolour painting. To mark this, the latest chapter of an ongoing collaboration between Rise Art and Pezo von Ellrichshausen, our Curator Phin Jennings visited their home and studio in Chile to learn more about their collaborative practice as artists and architects.

By Phin Jennings | 11 Sept 2023

Pezo von Ellrichshausen is the collaborative practice of architects and artists Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen. They live and work, accompanied by two dogs and two cats, in Yungay, a remote and sparsely populated town in the middle of Chile. Their home, which they designed and built, is LUNA: a 2,400 square metre concrete complex comprising a series of indoor, outdoor and in-between spaces for living, painting, drawing, woodwork, metalwork and whatever else the couple set their minds to. I visit them in mid-March to speak with them about their practice as artists. When I arrive, I am wondering about its relationship with their architecture: where does one end and the other begin?

Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen
Pezo von Ellrichshausen in one of LUNA’s studio-cum-gallery spaces (courtesy of the artists)

It turns out that I’m not the first to ask. Mauricio (who prefers to go by Pezo) and Sofia are not as interested in talking about the question itself as the reason why it comes up so often. “It’s probably a remnant of the whole way our society needs to categorise in order to understand how it is reading something,” Sofia suggests, “people need that information to guide them through that process of interpretation.” “And appreciation,” Pezo adds. Before reacting to something – a painting, a drawing, a piece of writing, a building – we wonder what it is. During my time at LUNA, I learn that their practice is not so easy to categorise. The art and the architecture are inextricable. As Sofia tells me, “we cannot really make a clear distinction.”

From the roof of LUNA, where I find myself on the first day of my visit, I can see the whole building, made up of a network of rooms and corridors built around four courtyards. Between them, the courtyards have a far larger footprint than the indoor spaces. I can also see the uninterrupted landscape beyond; for the first time, I feel a sense of how remotely located LUNA is. The roof can be accessed by one of two staircases: one that wraps around a hollow pillar and another that sits inside it. For every two steps on the outside, there is just one on the inside. You are left to decide whether to take the quick, direct route or the slower scenic route. Accessing the roof – I end up taking the internal stairs – is one of many moments during my visit when I notice that I’m engaging with my surroundings where I might normally be blind to them. Another is walking through the structure’s vast ‘corridors’, which are only partially sheltered from the elements. Their inhabitants feel the sun, wind, rain or whatever else the weather is doing. “We believe architecture is a means to be in the world,” Pezo explains, “it allows us to be intensely in the world.”

Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen
An aerial view of LUNA and its surroundings (courtesy of the artists)

A lot of the spaces we inhabit have the opposite effect; they are designed and built to be frictionless, the most efficient routes beckoning us without our realising that we’re being beckoned. They are designed to recede into the background, not to be experienced intensely. Pezo and Sofia are interested in creating spaces that invite us to, as Sofia puts it, “be surprised, be aroused, stimulated, even without noticing the source of that motivation”. Most built environments are prescriptive – their design points to a particular way of existing within them, and there are few surprises. “Houses need a main door, bathrooms need opaque windows; there are such functional preferences”. Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s buildings are not made with the same pragmatism and predictability in mind. They would rather invite happy accidents, exploration and play. Unlike most architecture, which is intent on providing answers – implicitly telling people how their spaces should be inhabited – they seem more interested in asking questions.

Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen
62004131213 (Interior No. 16) (2013, oil on canvas, 30 x 30cm)

Their art can be read in the same way. Neither Sofia nor Pezo expects to know how an artwork or series will unfold before it gets underway. A lot of the time, they work in series that involve rule-based permutations – the ongoing Finite Format series, for example, involves thousands of works that they describe as “the systematic erosion of an ideal object, of an imaginary building, based on a prescribed set of rules” – but these rules do not make for a foregone conclusion. “Even when you have rules,” Sofia tells me, “the resulting variation is rather unpredictable.”

Working collaboratively, each artist’s ideas and impulses are inevitably tempered by the other’s – “it’s always a negotiation,” she adds during a visit to their painting studio. Beyond this, there are a host of other factors that contribute to how a painting or drawing (or building) turns out: “there is light, there’s movement, there’s sound, there’s time”. Pezo notes that the material reality of their own bodies are also a factor: “there is a fundamental relationship with your own being, with your bodily condition”. He might plan to draw a straight line, for example, but it is unlikely to turn out that way. Not-yet-considered possibilities are given space to unfold within a rule-based structure. They understand that, in Sofia’s words, “our thoughts are always a reduced version of the rich complexity of reality,” and they are happy for this richness to find its way, without explicit invitation, into the work.

Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen
Finite Format 04, No. 451 (2017, watercolour on paper, 28 x 21cm)

Each piece is named with a sort of code: eleven digits that denote the day of the week, date and time when it was finished. For example, the 13th work in their Exterior series – an acrylic painting of a detail from an imagined building – is named 72402161301, which tells us that it was completed on Sunday, the 24th of February 2016 at 13:01. To me, these timestamp-like titles serve to reinforce the role of the unexpected in their practice. Making the time of its completion an inextricable part of a work reinforces its specificity: it is not a timeless, immaterial idea, but a physical object made by two real people. The course of its creation, even if it was conceived as part of a rule-based series, was inevitably impacted by a vast constellation of worldly factors.

Everything depends on everything: intentionality and unpredictability with Pezo von Ellrichshausen
72402161301 (Exterior No 013) (2016, acrylic on paper 22.8 x 30.5cm)

After my visit to LUNA I spend a few days staying in CIEN, another Pezo von Ellrichshausen building located in the city of Concepcion. On a hill just south of the centre, it towers above its surroundings, the view from its modest roof terrace stretching to the hills outside of the city. Look hard enough and you will find, etched into the building’s concrete, the number 13105101554. Before the completion of LUNA, Pezo and Sofia lived and worked here. One afternoon, sitting at a desk where I imagine they spent time working, I notice the words “tout tient a tout” written in white pen on the window in front of me: “everything depends on everything”. Sofia had mentioned these words to me a few days before. They seem to encapsulate the duo’s attitude towards life, art, architecture and the many places where they intersect. In everything they create, from an oil painting to a home, there is an openness to being surprised by the ways the world and its contingencies find their way into the picture.

Related Artworks

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get early access to artist stories, new art and promos

By giving us your email address you agree to receive (thrilling) email updates, including special offers, new pieces and arty news. If you want you can unsubscribe at any time.

Further Reading









More From