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Issue 229

‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’ Stares Into the Void

A group exhibition of works by Clémentine Bruno, Mara Fortunatović, Eva Gold and Bella Riza at London’s Nicoletti Contemporary wrestles with ideas of loss, absence and yearning

BY Anastasiia Fedorova in Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 04 MAY 22

‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’ begins with an absent artwork. Mara Fortunatović’s The Disappeared Piece (2017) consists of a grey cardboard envelope clipped to the wall; inside, there is a certificate authenticating ownership and a theft report. We know nothing of the artwork’s appearance, only the fact of its disappearance. Highlighting the forces we don’t see, this group exhibition at east London’s Nicoletti Contemporary – which also features works by Clémentine Bruno, Eva Gold and Bella Riza – offers a meditation on absences in history, memory, sexuality and place.

Mara Fortunatović, Electra, 2022, electrical cables. Courtesy: the artist, Nicoletti Contemporary, London; photograph: Mark Blower

Fortunatović’s two other works are slender constructions hanging from the ceiling. Pando (2022) is a serene and perfectly level arrangement of wires and metal rods; Electra (2022) is a spiral structure of electric cables, tied like intricate macramé, stretching like an elongated spine. The cluster of plug sockets curling at the end of Electra is reminiscent of a bedroom from a distant memory. Pando references window blinds, domestic objects that can conceal something or someone from view. Fortunatović’s sculptures amplify the amount of space around them while playing with notions of the visible and the hidden.

Gold’s People from Last Night’s Dream Stumble in the Dark Rooms (2022) is a rack of black rubber belts emitting a rich scent familiar to any fetishist. Liquid Gold (2022) is a foil-covered sculpture in the shape of a urinal with small etchings of empty chairs and faceless kneeling figures, bathed in the piss-coloured, divine-sterile glow from two tube lights above. Her small drawing, The Playground (2022), depicts an empty, tiled room in a sex club: it is left to our imagination to situate bodies – perhaps even our own – into the blank spaces. The drawing connects this exhibition to Gold’s concurrent solo show, ‘The Last Cowboys’, at Ginny on Frederick – a small, tiled, former shop unit nearby, where she has hung a row of rubber jackets. The painstaking process of stitching industrial rubber is integral to Gold’s art, referencing sadomasochistic sexual practice.  

‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’, 2022, exhibition view, Nicoletti Contemporary, London. Courtesy: the artists and Nicoletti Contemporary, London; photograph: Mark Blower

The title ‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’ derives from a collaborative poster – produced by Bruno with artists Anna Clegg and Beatrice Vorster – that is pinned to the wall alongside Bruno’s painting Debris Room (2022), which references El Greco’s The Adoration of the Name of Jesus (1577–79). Debris Room focuses on a monstrous mouth in the bottom right corner of El Greco’s masterpiece – the counterpoint of the overhanging luminous figure of Jesus. Bruno elected to focus on the mouth because its cavernous space relates to the notion of disappearance. The poster emerges as trace or a ghost of El Greco’s original. 

The gentle sounds from Riza’s video Divided Island (2019) fill the space. The film explores the artist’s relationship with her father’s native Cyprus, which he left in 1968 and to which he could not return due to intercommunal violence. Images of shadows, flowers, skies, and distant views of buildings drift into one another, evoking the grief we experience when we become disconnected from our place of origin. Although the visuals are specific to Cyprus – sites that her father can no longer visit – the soundtrack (a bird singing, wind, sounds of traffic) is almost universal, striking a chord of broader nostalgia and loss.

Mara Fortunatović, The Disappeared Piece, 2017, installation view. Courtesy: the artist, Nicoletti Contemporary, London; photograph: Mark Blower

‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’ explores the void not as something calm and unchanging but as a space which traces disappearance, a negative space left when something we yearn for is gone. Perhaps, ultimately, absence is the most potent manifestation of presence – because of our compulsive desire to fill the void. 

‘Not before It Has Forgotten You’ is at Nicoletti Contemporary, London, until May 15

Main image: Eva Gold, People from Last Night’s Dream Stumble in the Dark Rooms, 2022, rubber belts, installation view. Courtesy: the artist, Nicoletti Contemporary, London; photograph: Mark Blower 

Anastasiia Fedorova is a writer, curator and researcher based in London, UK