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Art Review: Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery

18 October 16 words: Shannon Challis-Smith
Beauty comes from the inside, as Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva proves in her latest exhibition
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photo: Shannon Challis-Smith

The dramatic entrance of Elpida’s exhibition in the Djanogly Gallery at Nottingham Lakeside Arts is extraordinary, and certainly unlike anything you’ll have ever seen. It is, however, perhaps comparable to the spectacular interior of a cathedral, as translucent architectural veils drape from the ceiling on either side of the walk way. It is therefore, perhaps a surprise to the spectator to learn that the material of said draping veils is in fact the caul fat of a pig. A walk under the beautiful by-products of certain farm animals triggers surprisingly thought-provoking discussions, especially regarding the potential of originally unwanted materials.

Beyond what may best be described as an architectural installation, a sculpted figure towers above the viewer. The caul fat continues to drape around the figure in a uniquely spiritual way. Layers of beige material are bound into a large sphere shape, hanging from above, while copper-coloured strips stream from directly beneath it to the floor. The sphere of ruffled layers is made up of the stomach of a cow, and the streaming material the intestines of sheep.

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photo: Shannon Challis-Smith 

A turn to the right leads on to a room of white walls and lights, shining upon more stomach-churning, yet fascinating, pieces of art. In addition to further rippling, layered spheres and CAD drawings depicting models of a similar nature, and peculiar purses lie in individual glass cases. They are oddly shaped, draped in what looks like white, soft fur, fitted with clasp and chain. It is however, made from the testicle of a sheep, interestingly named Ladies Purse.

Another, large, brown sphere can be seen hanging from the ceiling. The crisp-looking material and off-brown colour gives the sculpture an almost autumnal look, certainly something to do with the wilderness. Of course, in reality it does relate to nature, as it is made from the stomach of a cow. It’s title Bad Hair Day is not only amusing but also forces the spectator to begin to consider the relation between the intricate forms of the preserved insides and our own bodies, especially their form and the appearance of human skin.

A further three figures are also suspended in the room; lit cinematically by white LED lights, allowing the viewer to see every grotesque detail, yellow pig stomachs hang above. They remind one of an oddly shaped skeletal form or fossil due to their texture and murky-yellow colouring.

The third and final room of the exhibition combines the real, sculptural forms of Elpida’s work with her pencil illustrations which are upon two of the walls. The correlation between the two can be immediately recognised; the intricate detailing of the pencilled drawings is miniscule and light, encouraging the audience to view them up-close, just like the caul fat encased in small, glass cases and lit up in glass frames upon the wall in the very same room. The room in question is smaller in scale, much like many of the art forms inside of it, creating a more intimate and delicate experience.

As the guest leaves the exhibition through the cathedral-esque room with thoughts of religious, natural and human biologic connotations, the mind cannot help but appreciate the beauty which can be found in the most unexpected places. 

Making Beauty, Djanogly Gallery, runs until Sunday 30 October 2016.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva's website

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