Curling Up With Reality and The Decline of the Showpieces
Grazer Kunstverein / GRAZ (Austria)
07.12.2017 – 18.02.2018

Isabel Nolan’s solo presentation of new and recent works reimagines the vaulted rooms of the
 Grazer Kunstverein as a crypt or secular chapel for the disgraced Dominican friar and cosmological theorist Giordano Bruno. Towards the end of the 16th century Bruno developed a mental memory system that he believed could encompass and order all knowledge of the universe. With (Tomb) Memory Wheel (2017), a suspended steel sculpture composed of concentric circles, upon which colourful, delicate, irregularly shaped bone-like objects rest, Nolan has reimagined an ossuary. This work is dedicated to Bruno’s memory system and his largely unacknowledged, anachronistic vision of an infinite universe where all matter, and so all people, were equally imbued with divinity and dignity. Throughout the show death and art are posited as powerful shapers of reality. A series of photographs focusing mostly on feet (human and animal, living and dead), man-made floors and pavements reveal the artist’s interest in looking down instead of up. Whether she is imaging the lofty thoughts of unlikely philosophers, or observing the upturned soles of funerary sculptures, Nolan’s work examines how the universe is brought into meaning in the human mind, and how the intimate nature of direct contact with the world and physical lowness can unexpectedly arrest that process of understanding.

Ola Vasiljeva’s work tells stories. Stories that belong to no single entity, but which unfold gently through objects. While walking one day in Graz, the artist encountered an enormous boarded-up 16th century building on Kaiser Franz Josef Kai. Falling in love with the door and window grates that shelter the interior from the glare of passersby, she began to develop new sculptural works that would neither hide nor reveal themselves – objects that ‘look like’, but refuse to fully commit, sitting somewhere on the cusp of recognition. Vasiljeva speaks with materials through strong lines, exaggerated features and rude shapes, but it’s the magic she conjures in encapsulating what’s absent that makes her work really sing. As part of our Winter Season the artist stages an arrangement of recent and newly produced work, to create a series of imaginary thresholds that act as guardians between one moment and the next. One of the artist’s works can also be seen in the window of the house whose encounter first inspired her assembly of objects for this exhibition. The work can be seen from the street, at 36 Kaiser Franz Josef Kai, and is kindly facilitated by the landlord.

Courtesy of the artists and Grazer Kunstverein
Photo credit Christine Winkler