For her second exhibition with Elika Gallery, just us on a different day, Irini Bachlitzanaki presents a series of new works, mostly sculptures and embroideries.
The exhibition borrows its title from a paraphrased quote from American author George Saunders’s acceptance speech of the 2017 Booker prize for his first novel Lincoln in the Bardo. It refers on the one hand to ideas of identity, locality, community and belonging that are addressed through the works and on the other to the artist’s expanding of her vocabulary of materials and processes.
Even as she opens up her work to textiles and, more significantly perhaps, to the inclusion of text, the works on show also indicate the continuity of her concerns, formal as well as conceptual. Works which develop into series—such as the text embroideries of which three examples are presented in the exhibition (We Travelled, That Previous Place and What is Other)—coexist with works which include series of objects and repeating patterns and motifs—such as the garland structures and wax piece and refer through seriality to industry and mass production.
Following from her previous show in the gallery, objects are once again cast in a lead role in the exhibition. Their materiality and their “objecthood” are at the forefront of an enquiry carried out through a concise vocabulary of means, methods and materials. Bachlitzanaki explores the potential and different possibilities of the process of casting, cast plaster and wax in generating forms that are invested with a wide range of imaginative associations and perpetually toy with the idea or recognisability, while also drawing on design, notions of the decorative, craft and the readymade. Her works hinge on a sense of ambiguity, of existing in an in-between state: between reality and illusion, utility and lack of apparent function and in this way they open up broader questions concerning the nature of the work of art and its relationship to other objects and commodities.
Similarly to the sculptural objects, the texts we come across in the show are disengaged from their previous, varied contexts. These range from graffiti that has shaped the city centre’s linguistic landscape in recent years, to literature, to a phrase someone once said that resonated. In the works, they come together to become components of a language that wonders if a place where we belong ultimately exists, and explores the relationships formed with that elusive somewhere. They help shed light onto language and communication, their limitations, and the ambiguity inherent in them and also the possibilities of constructing alternative narratives that this ambiguity opens up. At the same time, they draw attention to their physical presence and formal attributes and the way they too can exist in space.