‘Ritual Touch’ – at MIRROR in Arts University Plymouth – brings together three artists for the first time, Monica-Shanta, Gladys Paulus, and Ingrid Pollard to start new conversations, with the materiality of touch and the significance of time and rhythm in the ritual of creating as central to the exhibition. The artists’ repetitive and slow creative practices become ritual; an act of making that shifts from a doing to a being with, where touch transcends the material and exists also as an energy to be with. ‘Ritual Touch’ is an experience of personal and historical ‘posthumous protection’.
Curators Rose and Mills said: “‘Ritual Touch’ is an exciting moment for us, as our first guest curated exhibition together. MIRROR has enabled us to show these different artists’ work together in a new exploratory dynamic. We found that each artist brings a meticulousness and rigour to their practice that we seldom encounter. The conceptual intricacies of their work make for a poetic, slow, but intense, experience for the viewer.”
‘Death turned to sand in my hands, escaping through my fingers. There is no death’. Monica-Shanta’s Death is a Place is a large installation and performance contemplating, the artist says, ‘the universal transcendent nature of death, culturally specific traditions and responses to death, as well as historical instances of genocide.’ There will be a very special one-off live performance of ‘Death is a Place’ in the gallery, both a ritual and an endurance.
Gladys Paulus’ pieces are part of a much larger series entitled Hinterland created in 2017; a deeply moving collection of felted textile artworks containing and healing familial and ancestral legacies. Starting with the shamanic concept that in order to heal yourself you have to heal your ancestors, Paulus incorporates personal objects in each of the pieces, imbuing the work with a sense of each individual. Echoed by the alchemy and sheer physicality of the felt making process itself, the work explores loss, remembrance, identity, protection, healing and transformation and tackles the effects of colonialism, war and displacement within her family.
Ingrid Pollard’s artworks featured in ‘Ritual Touch’ are the most recent works in the exhibition, having been made in 2022 as part of her acclaimed ‘Three Drops of Blood’ show at Thelma Hulbert Gallery (August to October 2022). These works address the richness of relationships between tradition, the locale, and the global, linking the lengthy, painful, act of lace making, with plant lore and practices of classification and exploration. Included here are perfect reproductions of xylotheks; wooden boxes used for storing tree specimens, examining ways other than colonial adventure of being in the world.
All three artists share a quiet depth to their practice, calling on rhythmic traditions, rooting human presence, and interaction in the natural world. A combination of mixed media installation and assemblage, the artists collapse historical and personal pasts, bringing to the fore a resonance of being imbued in the objects through touch. The embodied pasts of these objects release a power and a presence, where the ritual can become our own.
Monica-Shanta is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who weaves together digital image and film, interactive performance, drawing and installation, through a practice that is informed by both Western and Asian cultural traditions. Monica’s work is the impulse of an artist embodying a space of cultural instability, engaging with universal human experiences as portals to ontological and philosophical questions. Monica has been based in the South West for the last ten years, sharing her practice as an artist and educator with an extensive range of people, arts organisations, schools, galleries and a multitude of community environments.
Dutch-Indonesian artist Gladys Paulus creates deeply emotive works that quietly reclaim a perceived loss of sacredness. Often stemming from personal explorations into her ancestry and identity, her oeuvre straddles the worlds of fine arts, traditional crafts and ritual, managing to find a space entirely of its own, pushing the boundaries of the medium of felt in doing so. A fourth generation artist and maker, Paulus currently lives and works in Somerset. She is a specialist visiting tutor across the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. Her work is represented in the collection of the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam), and private collections in the USA.
Ingrid Pollard is recognised as one of the most influential British artists, breaking new ground and forging pathways for younger generations, shaping Britain’s understanding and histories of art, society and culture. Her mixed media work with photography pushes the boundaries of the genre, with a rigorous attention to materiality as well as history.
Described by The Guardian as an artist ‘at the peak of her creative powers’, this exhibition is a rare chance to see Pollard’s work in the South West. Pollard is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and received her doctorate-by-publication from the University of Westminster in 2016. She was recipient of the BALTIC Artist Award in 2018 and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Artists in 2020. Pollard’s work is represented in the collections of Tate Britain, the V&A, Cartwright Hall, and Arts Council England, as well as being one of four artists nominated for Turner Prize 2022.
‘Ritual Touch’, a group exhibition curated by Lorna Rose and Dr Ella S. Mills of talking on corners, will be open to members of the public at MIRROR in Arts University Plymouth from Friday 27 January 2023 and will run until Saturday 11 March 2023. An opening drinks reception will take place on Thursday 26 January 2023 from 5pm to 7pm.
The exhibition has been curated by talking on corners, a DIY, experimental visual art curating and producing practice underpinned by critical thinking and research. They commission visual artists and work with organisations to host exhibitions, residencies, talks and study days, while also offering writing, research, consulting and grant writing. Run by creative producer and artist Lorna Rose and art historian, based at University of Plymouth, Dr. Ella S. Mills, they are committed to working towards long-term institutional change and are funded on a project-by-project basis.
top image: Monica-Shanta performing plaiting. Credit: Helge Mruck
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