The Gallery Apart is proud to present the first solo exhibition in Italy by Rowena Harris, who was awarded the opportunity to live and work in Rome as The Sainsbury Scholar in sculpture at The British School at Rome. After almost a year on the artist residency programme, “Being both on and within, as I said” accumulates and presents an accurate assessment of an experience defined as seminal by the artist herself, who has been further developing her research on the relationship between sculpture, object and human body in a historical, architectural and social surrounding that provide a richness in new original ideas and inspirations for the London-based artist.
Rowena Harris is committed to a deeper understanding of contemporary reality, where the mind, the body, the self and things are integrally linked, and where the imaginative perception is both mental and physical. Harris employs this perceptive dimension within her work as an approach that involves the imagination of the viewer, alongside a bodily trace. The works included and the relationship between them, express a view of the contemporary world which can be understood as informed by the digital era, yet not limited to digital space. There is no distinction between virtual and reality in the way that our self and experiences are constructed and lived.
Ordinary objects which are treated as fossils or artefacts, or contemporary elements seen through an archeological view finder, evoke an earlier and different human presence. These are placed in relationship to sculptures that frame the real presence of the visitors who interact with the sculptural work just by their approach - consequently this framing places an image of their own body which is then offered to the view of other visitors. Hence, Harris’s sculptural work invites the audience to activate the work: a “being on and within” the sculptural work through a subtle and gentle performative act. Sculpture-frames and sculpture-objects frame or evoke body parts, referring not only to the relationship between virtual and reality, but also to a hybrid territory where they meet, and where these two terms breakdown. Such as the ubiquitous screen-based devices that represent an extension of the human body or when we place a part of our body on these devices, for example when, with our fingers, we involuntarily cover a photographic lens.
The exhibition is spread across the two floors of the gallery and each floor gives a different modality to the interaction between bodies and sculptures. On the ground floor, the works are alternating and prospectively touching in a constant process of framing and unframing. Sculpture-frames standing in the gallery’s space or hanging from the ceiling contain the image of other sculptures and visitors. The human presence or forms pertaining to a close relationship to the skin are evoked by fragments of shirts or by small objects trapped in the concrete. Silicon rubber micro-sculptures replicating dozens of ordinary objects we carry everyday in our pockets and which here are gathered together to form a strip along the wall as if dropped as cultural detritus. Complementing this are sculptures created through three-dimensional prints of actual human organs, gathered via MRI scans that provide parts of the body we can not see but can digitally reproduced. Finally fabric drapes where cyanotype, the most basic sun-reactive photographic solution, captures the a chance contemporary moment through a human scale process (a length of fabric enough to crumple in the hand and later to hang at human scale).
The sculptural work in the basement of the gallery is a place offering a different time interaction, inviting and accommodating human engagement and giving a place to rest the body. The work welcomes the visitors, encourages them to sit and to interact with a book created by the artist and which represents an integral part of the work of art. The book includes a collection of recent writing that Harris has developed in symbiosis with the sculptural work and on occasion of other previous performances. To the artist, in fact, written language is closely linked with that of sculptural language, where personal perception, imagination, memory and bodily understanding are called upon for a better comprehension of the work.