Jason

Preparing for my exhibition Berlin-London Contemporary Art by Women 2015

GIGI SALOMON

EXHIBITION OF HER SCULPTURE AT BERLIN-LONDON CONTEMPORARY ART BY WOMEN

In November 2014, I received an invitation to show my sculpture and photographs in the exhibition Berlin-London, Contemporary Art by Women at the German Cultural House on Belgrave Square. The exhibition was to be open for two months. This invitation came out of the blue, a result of a chance conversation one evening. At first I was chuffed to bits to be selected and then my thoughts turned to dread – self-doubt ….would I get my act together, to be on time, professional and organised? Imaginary scenes played out in my mind appearing in the form of excuses that something drastic had happened and I could not take part!

As a ‘young’ graduate, I really just wanted to work, to be experimenting and have the courage to keep making. I felt I was unequal to the task of ‘going public’. I was shy of the gaze and criticism of art lovers – resulting in pigeonholing, condemnation or praise, possibly suggesting directions in which my mind had yet to travel.

The force behind this exhibition was Marliese Ammon, wife of the German Ambassador Peter Heimann . For her, there exist few barriers and this exhibition was to create a visible platform for work made across cultural divides where there could be dialogue. She wanted to make one very important point; too few women artists are shown and too few women artists’ work is sold either by galleries or by auction houses the world over. Her statistics are staggering. She wanted to show work by artists who had been collected and recognised despite the Berlin Wall.  Many of the artists, chosen by the Berlin based curator Ecke Cörlin, had work in the Penz collection in Berlin. Without realising it at the time, I was being given the opportunity to connect with a group of artists, whom I would never have met were it not for this exhibition. I suddenly saw the fascinating differences in the considerations, influences and concerns in our work. Both their linguistic and visual language were a discovery to me. the London end of things, I was going to be part of something which would act as a barometer as to where women stood in the 21st Century. “Holding a candle to….” is a saying that immediately springs to mind.

The day arrived when I was to visit 34 Belgrave Square, the site of the old East German embassy…enormous rooms and high ceilings and not designed as a gallery space. Now it had been transformed into the German cultural building for the Embassy of a united Germany. I was offered the choice of two possible places in the building in which I could exhibit. To be invited to choose a whole room for myself! I missed several heart beats…I chose a ground floor low-ceilinged oblong room with a bay window at the end. The first job was to take measurements and lots of photographs. Where would I place an installation and what would it look like? The room had a quiet atmosphere – a small chamber inside which would be my chamber-like sculptures hidden inside a ..not sure what!

While at Heatherley School of Art, I developed a concept of making three dimensional mixed-media sculptures I have called Sculpturescapes. They are looked at through a viewing hole which for the Myth project, enabled me to transform found objects by harnessing and manipulating light and scale to create illusory mythical landscapes. The viewer looks through an aperture and then by being at the centre of the experience can set off on their own journey. At my diploma show, I was allowed to create a false wall….this was not going to work here…cupboards, radiator covers..offsetting the room and where would I hang my photographs?

I had only six weeks to prepare a room full of work. This was not the time to reinvent the wheel and I decided to develop further the mythical landscape of Jason on his quest for his Golden Fleece. I had partially explored the themes of Rite of passage, horizon and journey during the last three years and now I worked on the idea of the sea, both the wave form and the world below the waves. I love line and worked to try to capture those mysterious shapes that glint and give up tiny hints of the secret world below.
I decided to make six new sculptures of which four would be installed inside a white cube…seen through black viewing apertures, one per side. I would show ten photographs of other Sculpturescapes, two would be new. That was the mission. Day and night I concentrated on making and I was only too aware that I had to have enough time to have the courage to scrap work that I was not pleased with and start all over again.

I have made some spectacular mistakes during the set-up! The first was assuming that the lighting would be the same no matter where the sculptures were placed. Working freely in my studio, the neon overhead lights were so powerful I needed very different lighting. Now inside the cube, natural light was cut off and the wall mounted lights had been softened so as not to create too much glare for the photographs. So I painstakingly adjusted the lighting just to recreate what I made in my studio.

I assumed that the average height of the viewing aperture should be set at 5’2”. Along came lots of small adults and small children – short of giving them a leg-up, I quickly went to Ikea to buy 4 sets of little white steps! The reaction of those that followed, was ‘ Are we that short?’

In the lead up to the opening about the unknown rogue elements that might spring up and stare at me in the face. So I created a working Bible with LISTS – short, medium and long term for each area of my exhibition.

Then there was the administration …aah admin. I had no concept of how much time would be spent on it. There were pieces to be written and photos to be found for the catalogue for the exhibition being created in Germany. Then there was more to be written for the Artists Statement…so I really am an artist? There’s nothing like committing the idea to paper to start thinking,  that yes, 2 years out of the starting blocks, I am an artist. Not being social media or website savvy, I realised very soon through the advice of family and friends, that I should at least have a Facebook page. Then there were the mailing lists, the email templates, the photographs, the postcards and business cards for people to take away, labels to be written. It was like an invading tide. However, eventually there were lots of little ticks in my book.

Just before the opening, two events brought great happiness. The curator Ecke Cörlin and his wife Beate Rönspieß appeared in the room. He held out his hands in which sat my first ever catalogue. There it was, beautifully produced. This was happening and it really was me. Then dear Veronica and Tony (my tutors) arrived at the opening evening. I had felt totally supported by them all the way through this. I realised this was the Heatherley effect. Those end-of-year shows were crazy, somewhat scary events. Rob with his deadlines, Steve, Danny, George with our essays, Tony, Veronica and Lucy as well as the brilliant small class of fellow students all keeping a lid on the steam. The ritual painting of the studio floors and walls, the making of a fake wall, looking at space and learning how to maximise it without cluttering it. I now see I would never have been able to do this without having experienced two years at Heatherleys.

The Clashing Rocks

The Clashing Rocks

This series of Sculpturescapes is an interpretation of the epic myth of Jason, Ιáσων and his journey through the Symplegades – the Clashing Rocks, on his way to find the Golden Fleece in the land of Colchis. Taking inspiration from Jason’s perspective on board his ship the Argo, Gigi uses a single aperture, as used in telescopes and creates three-dimensional sculptures from within a light chamber. The essential elements of this episode are the journey, the world beyond the horizon and the world below.

 

Guardians of the Bosphorus
Guardians of the Bosphorus – Sculpturescape 2012 (40x30cm)

 

The ship ‘Argo’ was built with the help of the Goddess of crafts, Athena and Jason filled the ship with the leading heroes of his time including Heracles. They had to pass through The Clashing Rocks which until then had never been achieved.  The rocks would crush anything or anyone in their path.  An old man called Phineus gave Jason the advice to set loose a white dove to fly between the rocks and then if the dove succeeded, they should row with all their might and sail through.

 

 

Sculpturescape - Where sea and sky meet
Where sea and sky meet – Sculpturescape 2012 (40x30cm)

 

The lines are the ineluctable lines of force which simultaneously drive and lead Jason on his journey towards the horizon line and into the unknown.  No-one can ever reach their horizon even though it hangs there like a beacon.  Jason is on the high seas with only his Argonauts to guide him.

 

 

Sculpturescape - The world beyond
The world beyond – Sculpturescape 2012 (40x30cm)