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Issue 103 November-December 2006 RSS

Vidya Gastaldon

Alexandre Pollazzon, London, UK

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Ulephant (all works 2006) was one of a large number of French artist Vidya Gastaldon’s framed drawings on paper that lined the walls leading into the main gallery space of Alexandre Pollazzon. Within this work, as with others on show, was a universe located in an ample surround of untouched paper, margin, border and void space that enabled its narrative intertwinings of landscape and base matter – unravelling through the controlled flow of watercolour, candid marks of coloured pencil and isolated line – to remain free-formed and unbound.

‘Ulephant’ is a hybrid word, whose nearest relative in both English and French is ‘elephant’. Some sense of the animal existed in the lower portions of the drawing, as with the piece adjacent to it, Etre Assis (Sitting Down). The work was broadly divided across its centre by a horizon line, above which the earth gave way to mountains, skies and planets, and below which was a dense underbelly of austere and impenetrable rock-like formations. From within this bulk of stony greys the arched back and legs of an elephant seemed to emerge. Where the lines from the subterranean world pierced the surface, curved pencil lines that appeared to describe an elephant’s trunk gave way to the broad trunk of a tree. Combined with the play of words in the title, the drawing oddly makes reference to the pseudo-evolutionary tales of animal mythology in Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories (1902).

Within the central section of the triptych Ovus Premlata (Black) was the only fully evolved human figure depicted in any of the works – enclosed in an oval cavern, pinhole in size and with a grin that stretched half-way across her head, dancing with one foot on tiptoe and the other hitched and hooked around her waist. The title of the work, Ovus Premlata, suggested another piece of word-play graspable through the conjunction of languages and the gaps that exist between them rather than through any singular or absolute translation: oeuf, the French word for ‘egg’; opus, as in the Latin word for ‘work’; and ovum, as in ‘womb’. Elsewhere this loose, associative form of translation is played out through the recurring metamorphoses depicted within the drawings and holds firm through the wider parameters of discourse that exist between the works on paper and the objects.

Clearly visible from the closely hung group of drawings and located within the larger gallery space was Iron Guru Lung. This handcrafted object suggested cross-narratives not just between its form and the shapes repeatedly found within the drawings, but also between the media of sculpture and drawing. The work itself took the form of a pair of lungs, symmetrically constructed with hand-stitched white muslin wrapped around padded quilt or bedding material, from which parasitic growths or offspring sprouted. Two small rock-like forms on the left hand lung were visible just above two crossing cords or tubes that seemed to create, if only as a fleeting illusion, a smiling face. Drawing colour from interwoven strands of thread of varying colours, types and thicknesses, the frayed edges of Floating Mountain 1 (Mt Hemo) and Floating Mountain 2 (Mt Hellow) possessed an elegant, optical intensity befitting the deft touch of pencil line found within the drawings.

‘UniverevinU’, the palindromic title of the show, roughly equates to the word ‘universe’. In a world where veins run through nebulous and inert rock formations generating a life-force from base matter, Gastaldon appears to bring us to a clearer understanding of both the materialization and the compatibility of visual languages hewn in sympathy from drawn and constructed sources.

Charles Danby

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First published in
Issue 103, November-December 2006

by Charles Danby

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