Writer_Karen Aileen D’Arcangelo
HOTEL ELEPHANT GALLERY
The Tomb and the Fountain by Rui Ferreira
26th Jan. – 9th Feb. 2013
11am – 5pm
The Hotel Elephant Gallery resides in the heart of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle and aims to culturally enrich the surrounding community as well as promoting and encouraging local artists. The gallery is a warm place where art represents a moment of gathering and cultural discussion; a place that brings together a community. Established in 2007, the Hotel Elephant Gallery defines itself as a project and studio space and is proud to present its first exhibition in 2013, which features the installations of the artist Rui Ferreira.
It is also an honour to know that the Portuguese artist just completed his MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, and describes his experience at our University as an exciting challenge of change. After his degree in Fine Art in Lisbon University, Ferreira focused his career on paintings; it was after his experience at Goldsmiths that he decided to widen his means of expression through sculpture installations, photographs and a focus on body language.
The Tomb and the Fountain are two very interesting installations which embody a variety of meanings and ideals, offering numerous interpretations. They are powerfully communicative. The two architectonic sculptures represent iconic public monuments, however they are an invitation to reconsider such monuments with a completely different perspective. It is interesting that the Tomb is the first sculpture you encounter when entering the gallery, rather than the Fountain of Youth. The Tomb is set in a white room, emphasizing the energy of the wooden sculpture. The thousands kisses in different shades of pink and red on the surfaces of the tomb catch the viewer’s eye before reflecting on the essential but powerful structure. Death is definitely not the most immediate of the messages that can be perceived; instead, it is regeneration, stability and natural strength. The artist in fact explains how the sculpture is a result of his urge towards a radical change, in his career and his life, “The past needs to die in order to start again,” although he also admitted it is impossible to consciously “get rid” of it because the past will always come back in different forms. It was fascinating to learn how the tomb is based on one that the artist would frequently see during his morning runs through Nunhead cemetery. The two photographs that stand behind the sculpture, which both feature a nude man in a wild green environment, are a reminder of the real nature of the tomb.
In the following room, a majestic fountain rises, which is also made entirely out of wood and other objects. The rawness of the sculpture and its perfectly asymmetric imperfection communicates energy. It is after a long and careful viewing of it that all the details can be noted, such as painted wood logs, which distinguish themselves with their brightness; a reminder for the artist that painting has been and will always be a part of his life. The pillars that hold the fountain’s vase still have the nails from when they used to be pub table’s legs, the interior mirrors which reflect the bright golden presents paper, which are reminiscent of the game of colours of Trafalgar Square’s fountain. Finally, the golden sparkling liquid that bursts forth from the upper bowl of the fountain can be interpreted in many different ways, but it remains clear that it epitomizes the idea of constant regeneration and rebirth. The ebullient spray reveals itself, under closer examination, to be human urine, and it’s interesting to consider the ways this natural substance is both practically used in agriculture to fertilize fields, as well as its golden colour symbolically associated with alchemy, the process of turning heavy lead into precious gold.
As a result of this intriguing experience, I feel that galleries and exhibitions such as this one should definitely be better promoted on a larger scale, in order to involve a larger audience that can be challenged to experience new artistic creations without dependence on pre-existing in depth artistic knowledge.