The walls are white, the floors pale-coloured. The light is elusive.
The space has three galleries. Or is it two? Which flow together one into another to form a single unit.
In the space there are four works. Or is it forty-three? Or possibly just two?
The fabric of the works is of two types. On the wall and floor are light structures that draw the attention outwards into the immaterial space – structures of living timber that reflect the light onwards and outwards onto the walls, across the floor, serendipitously onto itself, as if they are in motion, aquiver. In converse, on one wall and on an oversized table are obtrusive heavy forms that draw the attention by their very mass into the dead mineral. The light structures seek to the sky or out of the space with an undefined pull that addresses boundlessness, unfocused curiosity, the enigma of the stars in the firmament. The heavy forms direct inwards and the casting of light creates deep shadows on their surfaces, shadows that intimate that previously there was more material here, now removed so that precisely this form remains, this appearance.
The interplay of light and material in the space then calls forth further manifestations of the three-dimensional works or sculptures of the artist Rósa Gísladóttir in the tranquil surrounds of the BERG Contemporary gallery at the start of a new year. The light here is both natural, in through windows in the ever-changing ebb and flow of daylight or darkness that characterises this time of the year, and artificial, with controlled and steady illumination; it becomes an integral part of the material’s display. Rósa’s works play on their multifaceted point of contact as regards perception in a space, interfacing with the more circumscribed art of architecture where personal experience of visual aspects of form or structure overlap with tactile aspects or material texture, plus the multidirectional light which even has the last word on the visuality of the material at any time. Thus the heavy forms appear to take on an even greater weight and mystery with indirect lighting from outside and beneath, and the light structures become even more fragile with the sharp lighting directed on them. The inherent qualities of the different materials appear to be applied with logical force, making reference to a historical connection with architecture and sculpture, ancient Greek classicism and the Russian constructivists, strong forms and sincere. But is this so on closer inspection? Is it possible in general to see the materials, living wood or dead stone, as having an inherent voice or meaning? If so, things are here being a tiny bit twisted and warped; the artist is playing with what originally seemed to be but then is perhaps something else. On closer inspection. Just as the moment is caught and blown into to pack the space together or broaden it out.
The pieces Distorted Spiral I and II are set down in a spacious gallery where they grasp out into the immaterial space, poke at and ignite the ambient electrons of the atmosphere, direct outwards from themselves into a world of ideas in the form of structures that hang together in some improbable fashion, much like the unbuilt tower Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International from the early 20th century. Tatlin’s tower, however, was intended to be constructed of iron, with a brutal finish of crude bolts and welded assemblies, while these towers are of incredibly delicate wooden shafts of almost white poplar. The form grows organically before the eyes of its creator and the assemblies are chosen with care and attention; the shafts are either sawn straight across or sharpened to create a spiked end, in some places such that many lines radiate out from a small point, in others so as to aim obliquely out into the air or down to the floor. The surface is polished so one can just make out fine veins in the solid timber.
The work What Should Never Be is made up of thirty plaster forms fixed up on a wall. The whole reads like a huge low relief, with conceptual associations with the cradle of European civilisation around the Mediterranean such as the temples on the Acropolis in Athens or the decorations in Roman baths. The ancient reliefs however were of massive marble or some other natural stone, while these works are cast in silicon moulds where the form is not really revealed until it is born, when it is taken out of the mould. The images of the forms have no place in recognised classical iconography but write in an obscure language that demands the active participation of the viewer and full attention in search of understanding. The silk-matt texture of the plaster-cast images offers a quite different kind of interplay with the environment than the raw surface of cold sculpted marble under a southern sun. In the same way, Deconstructed View turns on artistic references to the experimental windowing in the home of the architect Konstantin Melnikov in central Moscow. Finally, some of the smaller sculptures in the piece Fragments of Memory evoke the excavation of Pompeii and others components from heavy industry. Both works make use of ‘old’ material – wood and stone – which in the hands of the artist steps insistently into the present, demanding closer consideration of the form as such, the material as such, where the window frames cast shadows on an internal wall with no outward view, and the objects stand on an unusually high table top with shadow projection from beneath.
The materiality and response to light in Rósa Gísladóttir’s works in the Medium of Matter exhibition lead them – in contradistinction to their form – onto the paths of the lyrical, where the international language of classicism and constructivism shifts aside before a localised and ambiguous expression that addresses both perceptual craftsmanship and cognitive understanding.
Guja Dögg Hauksdóttirall images © the gallery and the artist(s)