Like a modern-day mudlark, the artist, writer and filmmaker Amanda Schiff spends her days trawling for the lost and found. Using abandoned objects, images and texts, she creates assemblages that evoke ambiguous and unsettling narratives.
Schiff's new exhibition, 'HERMAION', explores her fascination with things that have survived 'by chance or miracle'. The exhibition, installed within a domestic setting in an 18th century Huguenot silk weaver's house, takes its name from the gift of Hermes, the trickster god of the Greeks. Hermaion is the lucky find, the happy accident, the unexpected windfall. It describes both Schiff's imaginative process in making the work and the surprising results.
Using orphaned objects, whose makers are almost certainly long dead and whose purpose is outworn or forgotten, Schiff conjures up fictional narratives, encapsulating them within one-of-a-kind boxes.
These beguiling assemblages are constructed with a filmmaker's eye for detail and a writer's love of tall tales. A cast of characters emerges. Are they witty and playful - or sinister? The viewer, it becomes clear, is the missing element. They must call up their imagination to complete the picture and resurrect the stories. Jane Wildgoose's haunting and beautiful photographs offer additional layers of meaning in conversation with the cabinets of curiosities.
A major influence on Schiff's work is the American Surrealist Joseph Cornell, whose 'shadow boxes' are the subject of a new Royal Academy exhibition in London. The shape-shifting Dadaist and Surrealist artists, the fragmentary process of Walter Benjamin's writing, and Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's films, also inform her multimedia practice.
Accompanying the exhibition is the artist's book of fictional narratives with photographs of the cabinets by artist and photographer Jane Wildgoose.
With HERMAION Schiff and Wildgoose return to Eleven Spitalfields Gallery following the 2009 exhibition WE ARE SHADOWS: Metamorphosis, Curiosities, Dark Tales