Playing with scale and perception, Katrín Sigurðardóttir’s sculptural installation at Parasol unit, Supra Terram (Latin for going above ground), builds upon the idea that we experience the world not just through our eyes, but also through our bodies.
Part cave, part man-made grotto, part sanctuary, Supra Terram cuts through the gallery’s building, becoming one with the exhibition space, and yet redefining its very architecture. Extending from the ground floor up to the first floor, the installation requires a “compositional effort” to be appreciated in its entirety, while disorientating the viewer with an impressive shift in scale. On the lower level, it in fact reveals itself as an imposing, immersive environment before which the visitor feels dwarfed, whereas upstairs it is this latter to “overlook” what appears to be the grotto’s peak. Featuring a wood and wire framework covered in paper pulp which gives the installation a lightweight – almost ephemeral – appearance despite its size and mass, Supra Terram is ultimately a work of contrasts that reflects on the ways our perception of reality is affected by physical boundaries and objects.
Born and raised in Reykjavík, Iceland, Katrín Sigurðardóttir received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and has since exhibited widely in Europe, North and South America. Her work is included in several public and private collections, and in 2013, Foundation, a 90 sq m elevated tiled floor intersecting an old laundry at Palazzo Zenobio, featured in Iceland’s pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale.
Sigurðardóttir has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
Can you talk us through your site-specific sculpture for Parasol unit, Supra Terram?
It is a large sculpture that extends through the two levels of Parasol unit, from downstairs to upstairs. Viewing the work is an experience which can only be played in “parts”, and that in essence is the intention of the work.
How did your initial ideas come together for this project?
This work comes in direct succession of my large scale work at the Venice Biennale in 2013, where I also made a sculpture which cut through a pre-existing site.
With its shift in scale, Supra Terram disorientates the viewer, while challenging and questioning our perception of the space, its verity and function. What do you aim to achieve by arousing this sense of disorientation in the visitors?
My previous answer addresses this question. The visitor has to complete a picture, not only from what is apparent, but through putting together what is present/seen and that which is absent/remembered.
It goes without saying, architecture plays a crucial role in your practice; when did your interest in the subject first emerge?
I am interested in places, topographies natural and man-made, architecture being the latter. I am also interested in drawing structures, but this is simply an ingredient of making sculpture, and not an aspect owned by architecture alone. These are topics that have always been part of my work.
As an artist whose work seeks to investigate the relationship between perceptual and embodied spaces, in which ways is our perception of reality ultimately affected or even defined by physical structures?
This is not a question I can answer in words, but perhaps the visitors’ experience, encountering my work, is the answer to this question.
Besides having a background as a painter, I read you trained as a filmmaker; I wondered, how does your background and studies inform your work today?
I see myself as a visual artist, in a broad sense of the word, in that I have spent time in several disciplines. My studies in painting left me with questions about flatness, object-hood and the commodified object. My studies in film left me with questions about projection, space and time. All of these I have brought into my sculpture.
As a last question, what does the future hold for you?
The future holds, until future is present, and then reveals.
Supra Terram will be on display until 8th August at Parasol unit, 14 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari