Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation, Milan
April 6 – July 17, 2011
Curated by Paola Boccaletti
OLTRE LE TERRE FREDDE (BEYOND THE COLD LANDS)
“What defines a human being? What does he belong to and what belongs to him? Why are we sometimes moved to set off for distant places while at the same time wanting to return to our roots? I wonder if childhood is not simply our home: when we grow up it becomes a memory, an image, and it is transformed into an inaccessible realm. Far from my land, Siberia, I realized that my memory keeps the uncontaminated and untamed world of the Taiga alive in me.”
The questions posed by Olga Schigal are universal and profoundly human: What defines a human being? What does he belong to and what belongs to him? She addresses the theme of memory through the search for her origins, stripped of any nostalgic rhetoric. This quest is a means for reflecting on the meaning of belonging, for frank inward analysis.
In this solo exhibition, Olga reconstructs the Taiga, the boreal forest that covers thousands of square kilometres of Siberia and isolates it from the rest of the world. She does it with a well defined and realistic intent, with birch trunks up to four metres tall and languid sand dunes, so that she can share her emotional view immersed in the profundity of the environment itself. The forest has always had, in all cultures, a strong symbolic meaning. It represents the mental and physical space where one may undertake a journey into an unknown world, a mysterious place, where wild nature holds sway over human reason.
Within the exhibition, in a metaphysical space where reality and imagination cohabit and interact, we find a balloon, a house and a train track, iconic reminiscences of distant memories. The everyday objects are used as figurative expedients for plumbing the depths of the subconscious, where memories become concrete and thoughts materialize into places. They assume a presence like phantoms recovered from the realm of myth, history, culture and daily life. Our eye scans and immediately recognizes the forms. The small house reproduces the concrete building where Olga lived as a child. The images of a landscape pass by through the window: it is a journey back in time to the places of childhood (Home with Nostalgic Video, 2011). A cement balloon half buried in sand, like a toy rediscovered after a long absence, is tied to a slender red copper wire, the pulsating artery of the space (Cement Balloon, 2011). Lastly, the train track, representation of the legendary Trans-Siberian Express, is a metaphor for the passage into adulthood: a bright green work in wood, imbued with the vital and regenerative force of nature (Green Rails, 2011).
The installation is completed by a second milieu, the more intimate and sacred representation of the family. Within the space of a window, the artist annotates her memories with photographs, faint pulses in evanescent tones of red, green, white and black. An involuntary sacredness attempting to dematerialize the faces and bodies to give them greater spirituality. Figures submerged in the light coming from outside acquire the
same depth as the taiga, so that the people, like trees and memories, lose distinction, interblending, like in a forest with rays of light penetrating through the foliage (Vetrata con Ricordi di Famiglia, 2011).
The artist reconstructs her personal space, her own portion of the world, to show it outside of herself, to share it with others, so that in the act of viewing it, the viewer is taken back to the memory and makes it their own. A form of empathy that remains suspended between contradictory historical epochs, places lost and found, antithetical cultures.
This is Schigal’s first venture into site-specific works, a development in her artistic quest where she explores the potentials of installations to transform space into a sort of tableau vivant in which the effigies of people, places and objects, emptied of all symbolism, are charged with new emotional intensity. The installation is also the ideal reconstruction of a natural environment, which for someone in a city is already per se a memory and a desire. Twelve years later, Olga has returned to the places of her childhood and has felt the gap, as if it no longer belonged exclusively to her. The powers of nature and humankind have engaged her senses to the point where the memories become universal.
Olga learned how to draw on her personal experience from Katharina Fritsch, a firm and intransigent, unsettling and seductive, internationally famous German sculptor. This brought her to create her first works, re-elaborations of the traditional symbols of a past undergoing continuous transformation, souvenirs of a distant place lost in her memory, vanishing with the advance of globalization. Schigal’s works have always exhibited extreme precision in the realism of her objects, attention to surfaces, colours, dimensions and scales, but here the artist ventures “beyond the cold lands” to come to terms with space, giving life to an otherworldly, hypnotic and evocative setting.Entering this room means finding oneself totally absorbed into the world of Olga Schigal. Having reached an important point in her existential experience, she opens herself in this work and embarks upon a new and untraveled path of artistic maturation.”