ISLAND HOPPING – Barbara Noiret, Sally Osborn, Dorota Walentynowicz
exhibition text by Emmanouela Andrianaki, 2017
Islands are scattered colored dots on the map.
Islands are surrounded by water.
Either big or small, islands are geographically important. Islands, very often, gather around to create clusters. It is precisely islands’ proximity to one another that allows one to island hop(e); namely, to travel (easily) from one island to another. This ease of movement has gradually turned islands into strategic places, tourists’ resorts but also refugees’ (temporary) homeland. Metaphorically, “island hopping” is used to describe a specific type of human development within the society. Specifically, humans come close to each other – like islands do – to forge relationships with like-minded beings (for instance, friends, lovers, and I would say, ultimately, comrades).
The exhibition Island Hopping brings together works developed around the topic of the island – understood and explored both geographically and metaphorically. Barbara Noiret, Dorota Walentynowicz and Sally Osborn, hoppers in the island of Crete, have created artworks that capture three aspects of the “island” – the haunted island, the Utopian island and the body-parts as island, respectively.
French artist Barbara Noiret’s work made for this exhibition explores (the unavoidable passing of) time and its implications: ruins or the struggle to avoid them, the living time and its subjective yet historically specific nature. Noiret’s Balisage, a series of photographs taken during her stay in the island, depicts buildings – haunted by memory – covered with protection nets, those used during restorations. These nets while they protect passers-by from physical harm, they also hide the signs of the passage of time, protecting thus from memory. In her in situ installation, Fantômes Sur Le Rivage [Ghosts in the Shore], Noiret superimposes three photographs on a cracked, moist wall of the exhibition space. The photographs were taken in the nearby semi-abandoned urban area and depict a block of flats, a collapsed party wall and the facade of a building under construction, respectively. The artist, using gouache and watercolour, painted on the wall the imagery of the latter, creating what looks like the natural expansion of the building: a window. The window gradually dissolves into delicate and potentially ever expanding abstract formations rendered with colours that resemble the sea. As the artist explained, these subtle formations metaphorically comment on the precarious (very often sea) route of refugees, a connection already disclosed by the title of the work: Fantômes Sur Le Rivage [Ghosts in the Shore].
Dorota Walentynowicz’s installation De Nova Insula Utopia, following Thomas More’s Utopia, explores the idea of the island as a test model for social systems. A visual interpretation, given in two different means, of More’s Utopian island – seen by the artist on the cover of the first edition of his book, 1516 – is presented here. First, the limits of the island are cut in a sheet of black-painted plywood and hang in front of an aluminum surface attached on the wall. Second, two ceramic tiles are placed next to each other to form an open book on which the limits of “Utopia” are curved. The spine of this ceramic book is balanced upon another metallic sheet, which is placed on the floor. The uncertain, oscillating nature of this two constructions – the hang sheet and the suspending ceramics – allude to the Utopian state which is always in-between reality and possibility. In her second installation, Walentynowicz explores the island as a cultural mass of heritage and landscape value and devaluation. The artist placed on a wall, in an arrangement that resembles an archipelago, pages ripped out of the book Griechische Gemmen, 1957. The book, found in an antique shop in Germany, consists of high quality photographic representations of gems, stored in various museums across Germany. Gems, cut off from their initial home, colonised by foreign capital, speak for the formation of value across an uneven global market.
English arist Sally Osborn’s work What the Water Gave Me explores the idea of the body parts as island. A group of objects made of unglazed clay, reverberating mosaic surfaces or the land, the soil (of the islands), is located in different sites within the gallery. These objects look like abstract, bio-morphic representations made by island soil. Thus, these objects function as a metaphor of the human body – or, for that matter, of body parts, – a body that multiplies into a series of floating islands in the water, body parts that are individual and self-sufficient, as islands, scattered in the space. Her second work, Foot, is an edition of prints, given away for free to the visitors of the exhibition. Similar to her ceramic objects, the colours of the paper imitate the natural tints of clay. She uses the technique of risograph on three different kinds of paper to depict a degraded and enlarged leg pendant, found in the Heraklion Archeological Museum. In reflexology, the foot is seen as the map of the entire body; foot could be read as the map of the “floating” in space ceramic objects of the artist.
Completing the micro-geography of this exhibition, Noiret’s and Walentynowicz’s photographs taken in Sardinia and Croatia, respectively, speak for the passage of time and its marks on places and bodies. In Sardinia, Noiret’s Wind Sculpture depicts a dramatic landscape, a stone mass sculpted over time by the salt and the wind. A Croatian island is the background of Dorota Walentynowicz’s Untitled. A black and white pinhole camera captivates an androgenic figure disappearing into the sea. Using the long time exposure technique, the artist captures, on the same photograph, multiple stills of the body’s movement – the photo does not correspond a specific moment in time but echoes the latter’s unstoppable flux.
Three different aspects of islands and three different artists to hop(e) in. Each one, from a different point of view and origin, unravel ideas surrounding the ‘island’ to highlight the significance of islands as starting, intermediate and ending points of journeys – allowing the viewer to hop(e) from one another and, why not to attend his or her (island) aspect.