The Festival group exhibition at NGCA focused on the raw material of stone and how it has been shaped by human agency. It included the work of nine contemporary artists with nineteenth century hand carved models by local mining engineer Thomas Sopwith that visualised geology in three dimensions for the first time.
The artist’s hand is present both on and off screen setting up new relationships between nature and artifice. Gabriel Orozco’s Boulder Hand shows the uninterrupted rubbing of a stone by the artist’s hand, like a river eroding the stones on its riverbed, whilst in Dennis Oppenheim’s Rocked Hand one hand slowly covers the other with rocks. The short video works by Jimmie Durham and Maria Thereza Alves feature the artist’s hand in the act of throwing and dropping a stone.
Harun Farocki’s Transmission reflects on how stone is the material in which collective memory is immortalised, and Marie Lund’s sculptures memorialise human actions in stone. The balance and tension between materials is explored in Vanessa Billy’s sculptures shaping stone by water and gravity. These shifting natural forms are revealed in Thiago Rocha Pitta’s movement through landscape, and are orchestrated by the dramatic hand gestures of a quarryman in Yuri Ancarani’s work.
Thomas Sopwith: Sopwith Geological Models
Sopwith’s 1834 book, A treatise on isometrical drawing, provided a means of visualising geology in three dimensions for the first time. His background as a cabinet-maker and a surveyor, enabled him to construct these unique objects from 579 separate pieces of wood, laminated together and then hand carved. Courtesy the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
Gabriel Orozco: Boulder Hand
The video Boulder Hand, 2012, shows the uninterrupted rubbing of a stone by the artist's hand, which shapes and polishes its surface, like a river eroding the stones on its riverbed. This work explores the artist’s interest in circularity, movement and stability, nature and artifice
Dennis Oppenheim: Rocked Hand
One hand slowly covers the other with rocks weighing it down. The body splits in two, as the right hand renders the left invisible, blending it into the surroundings. Rocked Hand, 1970, is part of a series of works that evolve as exchanges or interactions between the artist’s body and natural elements such as rocks, leaves, glass and wood.
Jimmie Durham and Maria Thereza Alves: Collected Stones, 1995-2002
This series of short video works was undertaken on a residency by Jimmie Durham in collaboration with Maria Thereza Alves, all the works involve the act of throwing or dropping a stone. In one work a stone is thrown through a shop window, from the inside out to the street. It can be seen as an architectural gesture as well as an act of uproar and political activism. In another work a refrigerator is stoned in a public square opposite a church.
Harun Farocki: Transmission
Transmission, 2007, reflects on how stone is the material in which the collective memory of a life or an event in the past is immortalised and becomes an object of worship. It shows people’s pilgrimages to historic monuments across the world, and how the traces of these visitors are preserved in the stone.
Vanessa Billy’s work is devoted to exploring the potentialities of everyday industrial and domestic objects, revealing them in some way by transformation or association. She is interested in raw materials such as cement, clay and stone and learns from their natural processes and inherent characteristics. Her work unfolds over time, as concrete sets or dust settles, altering as the nature of the material shifts and changes. Water is also a recurrent element in her work as an element of circulation and porosity.
Yuri Ancarani: Il Capo
In the dramatic marble quarries of Carrara men and machines dig the mountain. Il Capo (The Chief) is a head quarryman who guides the workers using a language consisting solely of hand gestures and signs. Working alone surrounded by machines and noise, his delicate movements create a sublime dialogue with the stone.
In this installation stone and everyday domestic objects are combined, each work delicately memorializes a human action. For example, in one work a stone cradles a CD about to be played; in another work a clothes hanger emerges from the stone. In contrast to traditional sculpture with stone, her work finds new cultural form from the raw material. The silent presence of the human figure asserts itself through its absence across the installation.
Curated by AV Festival. Supported by Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.
Launch: Fri 28 February 2014, 5–6pm
Sat 1 March – Sat 17 May 2014
City Library and Arts Centre
Sunderland SR1 1RE
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9.30am–5pm, Wed 9.30am–7pm, Sat 10am–4pm, closed Sun
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