12 February 2014

Art I like - Sian Bowen

During my wanderings round the V&A, I was very excited to find these works by Sian Bowen in the Prints and Drawings display on Level 3, which has a wonderful display of drawings from 1600 to the present day in two rooms. (The display is showing till 13 April 2014 - "this display traces the central role played by drawing in portraiture and ‘landskip’, and in movements from Romanticism to Minimalism. Innovative contemporary works demonstrate drawing’s continuing importance for artists.")

Sian Bowen was artist in residence in drawing at the V&A 2006-8 - resulting in "Gaze". It was during this time that she found out about the Nova Zembla prints - a group of books and prints that had been left in the 1590s and over time had frozen together to become a dense block. In the 1970s a conservator began to separate the decayed sheets - which inspired her to make the drawings, based on reflections of the ice, filmed via a mirror held over the side of the boat.

In case the caption is too fuzzy to read ... "The Silent Freeze drawings were made in three sets using slightly different techniques. [The drawing on the right] was created with tarnished silver dust pushed through pin-pricked paper. The paper is watermarked with script transcribed from a 15th-century naviational guide that was found on Nova Zembla. The drawing on the left was created with pinpricks piercing the paper from back to front. The central drawing was created with pinpricks going inwards."
the drawing on the left
the central drawing
"Fascinated by the paper fragments," says the museum's caption to the central drawing, "Bowen travelled to Nova Zembla, crossing the Barents Sea. Using a slightly convex black mirror attached to the side of the boat, Bowen filmed the sea ice. She made the Silent Freeze / Mirrored: II drawings in response to video stills, which chart the shifting patterns of the fragmented ice." Some of the video stills can be seen in the first caption, and others are here.

Conservation of the Nova Zembla prints was carried out at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, where Bowen was guest artist in 2010-11; her blog of this residency is at bowenatrijksmuseum.wordpress.com, and included making a book that has brought together the different threads of the project.

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