A giant eye, staring out at you, fingers clawing out of a young boy’s portrait; there are overlapping image panes, a kaleidoscopic vision of deconstructed portraits. Elsewhere, pictures are embedded in foamy concrete, blocks of grey stone standing on spindly legs like totems. A boulder endlessly pushed up and down a quiet street, a Sisyphean feat of rebellion against the man-made constraints forever taking over nature. It is precisely here, at the junction where man and nature collide, that the works of artists Jonny Briggs and Evy Jokhova meet. The Manicured Wild (20 July – 26 August 2017) at Kristin Hjellegjerde, brings together the place where both disparate artistic practices meet, as each investigates the relationship between the manmade and the natural, old and new, and our desire to control the world around us, whether through landscaping and architectural interventions, or constructed realities, where truth and fiction merge.
The works of Jonny Briggs often touch upon around the blurred boundary between the body and the landscape, a strange in-between state where bodies merge with their surroundings. “The gaps in history shout louder than the facts,” he explains. “I notice how we may project into these gaps our own fears or desires, generating stories that evolve into folklore, blurring the boundary between what is real, and what is fantasy.” Briggs probes our need to create artificial versions of nature – as seen in wallpaper, greengrocer grass and laminates, or as smelt in air fresheners, perfumes and candles. For him, it is this phenomenon of nature, controlled, that enthrals him.
His photographic works appear as if they have been digitally manipulated as montages of different visual realities, yet closer inspection reveals them to be more real than one at first assumes. The Hanged Man, for example, presents a kneeling figure, yet that is only part of the sum of the many parts he is composed of. “I seek to create uncrackable puzzles, in terms of how missing parts in the photographs relate to the objects they are presented with,” he explains. “The object can't complete the photograph; the photograph can't complete the object.” As such, he works with the fragmented body; in particular those parts which relate to senses (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands), symbolic of the ways in which we recreate nature to our own tastes – artificial sights, sounds and flavours.
Meanwhile, Evy Jokhova’s practice is research-driven by investigations into relationships between things, the creation of social systems, and how social behaviour can be altered through architectural construction. Exploring social narratives and remembered ‘truths’, she questions her own subjective role in and relationship to society, history, landscape, architecture and public ‘signifiers’ such as monuments. “Materiality is important to me in relation to culture, nature and artifice,” she explains. “I look at how and why we maintain an attachment to particular materials and architectural features and why we are constantly seeking new ways to synthesize and mimic old ideals.”
Series such as Templates and Totems/Cairns explore these notions of visual appropriation and mimicry and the relationship between social relics, sacred objects, and assemblages for pilgrimage respectively. The Manicured Wild will also involve a performance element: a giant rock sculpture, Sisypha, will be wheeled once a day up and down the gallery’s High Street, a metaphor for human migration, for the struggle over land, finding one’s place, and how place can migrate within collective memory. It also references the current plight of artists who are pushed of out cities due to gentrification and rise of property prices. It also extends to the ceaseless tasks of gallerists who take on these artists and their baggage, taking it to and from art fairs, temporary commissions, sculpture parks and so on. Encapsulating history in stone, the work references the eponymous Greek tale, and the human plight of endlessly working to conquer nature (both human and environmental) and our constant striving to perfect ourselves – that endless, hopeless task of seeking to manicure the wild.
“The Manicured Wild” runs from 20 July – 26 August 2017 at Kristin Hjellegjerde