The main currency that runs through Elaine Mullings’ practice is a delight in material and process. Visually, her primary focus is the circle - large discs of shimmering copper, gold and silver or bold, flat discs of iridescent colour that feature in her prints. Although Mullings uses a range of processes in her printmaking, the work in this exhibition concentrates on monotype screen printing – a way of creating marks and images that exists somewhere between printing making and painting.
The catalyst for this series of prints, Fuga Perpetua – always running - was news of an event in the summer of 2014. A boat carrying at least 243 (mostly Eritrean) refugees - many of them women and children- was supposed to sail from the coast of Libya to Italy. But instead of making its perilous journey across the sea, it vanished completely.
It is extremely unusual for a boat this size to go missing without leaving a trace. There are hundreds of thousands of people travelling this route daily, looking for peace and safety in Europe. But whatever happens—sinking boats, double-crossing smugglers, and drowned corpses —there is always evidence of some kind. Not in this case. The disappearance of the Ghost Boat sparked an intense, global investigation by journalists and volunteers. To date the boat and those 243 refugees have not been found.
Fuga Perpetua reflects on the desperate plight of refugees and migrants making those perilous journeys. These abstract monotypes are imaginings: the feelings and anxiety of crossing seas with all you possess and praying that you will survive. The work is also underpinned by a sense of optimism fuelled by the overwhelming, palpable relief of making it alive to the shore. In those desperate bids for survival, there is always hope.