BY Matthew Rana in Reviews | 15 APR 13

Ane Graff

Norwegian artist Ane Graff explores the seepage of time and its deconstructive force at Sørlandet Art Museum, Kristiansand

BY Matthew Rana in Reviews | 15 APR 13

Flowing from the surface into the soil, groundwater cuts through rock. Even something as solid as marble becomes porous and fragile when subjected to this slow erosion. Penetrating the smallest cracks and amassing in vast subterranean reservoirs, groundwater eventually emerges again in sudden gushes or slow trickles. In ‘Your Groundwater’ (all works 2012–13), Norwegian artist Ane Graff presents new works that use this process as a metaphor, not only for the seepage of time and its deconstructive force, but also for a kind of surfacing, in all the ambivalence of the term.

The Blow is a group of sculptural works in which images of bruises have been painted on marble slabs resting against white plinths in precarious configurations; they are tentative structures, apparently held together by gravity, mutual resistance and support. The overall sense is that of a visceral trompe l’oeil in which variegations and gashes in the stone are transformed into veins and capillaries. And while bruises eventually fade, marble retains an aura of permanence. So that while these ‘contusions’ are obviously traces of a blow, they also mark the lingering presence of unnamed injury.

Ane Graff, The Blow (Tract), 2012-3. Courtesy: the artist

A similar operation takes place in the series ‘Quarried’, in which layers of textiles on canvas are subjected to several phases of distress. In these works, the fabric is exposed to battery, repeatedly printed upon, stained, folded, wrung-out, lacerated, torn, possibly even burned. Quarried (Spent) drowns in vermillion dyes that lend it a kind of opulence while also obscuring images and patterns. Others, such as the satiny Quarried (Trifled) are loosely bound together. Quarried (Upstanding) is tamer. But if you look closely at its crimson creases, you can detect the outlines of dragonflies along with formations made by salt crystals and freezing water.

Here, the work becomes something excavated, dredged up or brought forth from some pit. Again making reference to the enduring capacity of stone, but also its power to transubstantiate – to ‘flow’ so to speak, draping like fabric or falling like water – the surfaces are full of traces, markings of repeated violence. Yet, as much as the works comprising ‘Quarried’ are palimpsests, their scale, approximately that of a human body, refers them to bandages or even a shroud. That is to say, they become raiments for an absent body.

But Graff’s works aren’t necessarily lamentations; they’re not content with alluding to absence or a concealed trauma. Rather, the works in ‘Your Groundwater’ hinge on their surfaces and gestures. There is an affirmative – or perhaps one might even say seductive – dimension to her work. Of seduction, Jean Baudrillard wrote that it ‘never belongs to the order of nature, but that of artifice ... of signs and rituals’. Indeed, I imagine Graff’s repeated assaults upon the fabric taking on this kind of symbolic weight. Looking at the deep folds of Quarried (Blunt), I was suddenly seized by an image of the frescoes in the villa of the mysteries in Pompeii depicting an indoctrination to the sacred rites of Dionysus – which is to say, those of pleasure, transgression and renewal. Perhaps this is the kind of eroticism needed for a social body to resurface?

Matthew Rana is an artist and writer living in Malmö.