A Pause for Breath
Giuseppe Penone’s series of 19 black and white photographs, Soffi, articulate one of the major themes that he has explored throughout his career – the idea of ‘soffio’ or breath. Tiny clouds of dust hover in a forest clearing, their repetitive rhythm evoking the process of breathing. The studies for ‘Soffi’ remind us that our every breath is an introduction of a body of air into the surrounding atmosphere. By collapsing some of the differences between the senses, Penone gives material expression to the immaterial.
Tacita Dean’s A Bag of Air, shot in 1995 from a hot air balloon, connects back to a childhood desire to bring clouds down to earth, and to suspend the belief that something so physical cannot be invisible. The film was shot in Bourges, an important centre for alchemy in medieval times. Alchemists in Bourges believed that, with its relationship to Heaven and Earth (its evaporation, voyage up to Heaven and condensation back to Earth) dew was considered to have “the etheric essence of the forces of Spring” and to be a metaphor for the soul.
Daphne Wright’s works play on the idea of isolation and remoteness – her ‘photo-polymer’ intaglio prints depict images of empty farm landscapes of unnamed places shot from passing trains and buses.
Rendered in stainless steel and black gloss paint, Fiona Banner’s Full Stops Scrift and Century Gothic investigate the supposed immateriality or insignificance of this mark. Marking the end of one sentence and the start of another, they literally represent a pause for breath.
In Stolen Thunder, a set of thirteen tarnishes collected from objects often used by famous people, Cornelia Parker has collected the accretions of time, the physical manifestations of history. Rather than collecting the gloss of fame, Parker is interested in collecting its shadow. The tarnishes also relate to two large, silver suspended works currently on view in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum and at Tate Britain.
Breathless (Fanfare), a brass band crushed by the Victorian lifting mechanism of Tower Bridge is a permanent installation commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum for the its new wing and is suspended between 2 galleries. From above the work appears as a silvery pool of polished silver-plated instruments sounding out from the floor. From below the tarnished underbelly of the same instruments become black cartoons of their former selves, silhouetted against the white ceiling to echo the ornate ceilings preserved in the adjoining galleries. Thirty Pieces of Silver, on show at Tate Britain mimics natural phenomena – changing colour and hanging like thirty pools of water, defying gravity, just above the floor.