17.07.19 - 06.08.19 at Cathedral Cabinet
17.07.19 - 06.08.19 at Cathedral Cabinet
Olive trees are forgiving and resilient. Although thriving in cool winters and dry, hot summers, they can withstand most conditions, and as a result have become a weed issue in some regions of Australia. To prevent this, commercial growers and home gardeners should be thorough in harvesting the entire crop so that birds aren’t able to pick up any remaining olives and disperse their seed.
I imagine Anna coming over to discuss the text I am writing for her exhibition at Cathedral Cabinet. She notices an olive tree growing in my backyard. It’s July, halfway through the ripening season and many olives have faded from chalky green to deep, bruised purple and fallen to the ground. While I make a coffee in the kitchen, outside under the low sitting clouds, Anna kneels down under the tree and gathers olives to take away.
Despite collecting an amount hardly enough to fill a jar ten centimeters tall, Anna spends the following days brining, flavoring, and preserving the olives from my tree. They are demanding; they require tests, attention, time, trial and error to find the right recipe. Sometimes they threaten to go off, or become too acidic, but Anna is patient and persistent. She spends time with the olives, getting them just right.
Experimenting with thermodynamic and domestic alchemical processes, Anna uses the ability of particular materials to move between liquid and solid as a way of processing ideas. Across varied experiments, humidity is a connecting factor both materially and conceptually. Her objects are rarely solid or opaque; they often let the light through, leaving room for shadows to play and reflections to warp. Similarly, the conceptual underpinnings of her work are irreducibly entangled with the materials that make them, evading the clutches of lucidity or didacticism.
Humidity is an omnipresent ambience and a permeable obstruction. It is ambiguous in the way that it embodies a transitional state change of water between liquid and gas. Anna’s process could be described as an attempt to tame disobedient or temperamental materials by offering them time and attention. She shifts the focus from the human experience of things to the things themselves. Both the broken mirror and the sugar glass are held in resin, a material molded as liquid before it sets into a lacquer- or enamel-like finish. A form of psychic ablution similar to that of bathing, the materials suspended in resin are given an extended life where they can relax and indulge in unstructured moments, an act of generative potential.
Anna gives her artwork a level of attention and patience similar to that of brining olives. At home, she has closed the door and all the windows in the bathroom and left the fan turned off. She lets the bath run hot and sits with her artwork in the steamy room, sensitive to the change in atmosphere and the material transformations that occur. Bath water evaporates into steam and forms condensation on the mirror, reflecting nothing but exiguous fragments of light. Anna’s reflection is barely a silhouette, until a bead of liquid grows to dripping point. Like a snail, it leaves an iridescent trail in which a form is momentarily decipherable, before the material consequences of the environment abstract it once again.
Preserving these ephemeral and transmogrifying moments, Anna creates something of a theatre out of the chance outcomes that occur. What if the olives were to be held in a jar made of sugar glass? Often used as a prop in film and performance, sugar glass is made by dissolving sugar in water and heating it to approximately 150 degrees Celsius so that after the candy making process it bears the potential to produce a dramatic crack. The sugar glass jar might preserve the olives temporarily, but Anna would have to eat them quickly or share them, lest the acid brine dissolve the jar and seep through.
By attempting to preserve that which resists preservation, and intentionally courting ambiguity, Anna – forgiving and resilient as an olive tree – tasks viewers with the act of scrying. You furrow your brow as you focus into the milky infinity pool. Layers of humidity lift and lower like the curtain of a theatre with faulty ropes, its interwoven fragments, threads, and tangents open-ended and perpetually unfolding. You’ll find Anna in the scaffolds, gently plucking away at these ropes with a tiny pick, carved from the pip of an olive.
- Clare Longley, 2019