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Tracing Existence

Leo Crane

It is something of a cliché for an artist to explore what it means to be human. Ever since we made our first marks on this planet, humans have sought to record their presence. We are here, we mean something. Occasionally, amid all this noise, there is a note on a personal frequency, quiet perhaps, but with enough resonance to make you pause.

Last night, it was the work of Gigi Salomon that cut through, a sculptor recently graduated from Heatherly School of Fine Art and already in demand for her Sculpturescapes and installations. She had been invited to exhibit in the grand halls of the German Ambassador’s residence as part of Human, contemporary art by London-based female artists.

Suspended from the ceiling was her Drawing Machine, a spidery contraption of wires, springs and sculpted metal connectors. On the floor beneath, a metal plate with a circular aperture held a piece of paper. When pushed or knocked, the machine’s tentacles, each holding a chalk, brushed the paper, leaving a mark. Displayed nearby are the resulting drawings. They recall complex data visualisations, but without the coldness of a computer algorithm. The human touch gives them their presence, a solidity (as spindly as they are) akin to a Rachel Whiteread cast filling a void.

The second sculpture hung vertically on the wall: a bedsheet caked in mud. It was an impression of a drove road in Dorset, a pathway worn down to the bedrock by centuries of drovers and their livestock. The resulting tracks rise up like two ancient figures conversing. The definite sense of place is like a Floris Neusüss photogram or a child’s brass rubbing. We know that this sheet has been firmly pressed against that particular drove road and by extension countless anonymous footprints.

Both works have a palpable presence: less the presence of the work or the artist, more the presence of unknown people who have once occupied space. 

The exhibition Human was curated by Marliese Heiann-Ammon at the residence of the German Ambassador, London.

Ambassador Dr Peter Ammon and his wife Marliese Heimann-Ammon, © German Embassy London