Text: Jillian Billard
All Images Courtesy of Lily Brooke Gallery
This month, London’s Lily Brooke Gallery presents new works from up-and-coming artist Olivia Bax. Since receiving her MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 2016, Bax has established herself as one to watch with her large-scale sculptural works composed of chicken-wire armature and paper pulp. Guided by her interest in the process and physicality of construction, the sculptor relishes in surface textures, organic cavities, and playful intimations of incompleteness that suggest a perpetual state of flux.
For her latest work, Bax took into consideration the space in which it would be shown. Lily Brooke Gallery is a non-traditional space, aptly described by Bax as “domestic.” An installation artist herself, curator Lily Brooke’s primary interest is playing with space––specifically in the space of a lived environment. Located in a home in Camberwell, South London, the gallery presents works in a setting that is familiar––adorned with a fireplace, mouldings, and bountiful natural light. Bax’s approach to the space is unique in its scale––”Roost” (the title of both the exhibition and the central work) fills the room, disallowing much movement around the piece. In this way, the Bax plays with and challenges the notion of an inhabitable or domestic space.
Like a cavernous lair turned inside out, “Roost” acts both as a frame and an object. We are simultaneously drawn in to take a closer look and urged to take a step back, for there is something familiar at play alongside something we can’t quite place. Perhaps the scale of the work has something to do with our desire (and inability) to attribute associations to the work. Standing at 228 x 170 x 160 cm, the work is measurable against the body (the average human height ranges form about 150-180cm). The organic shape of the work––bulging and protruding––too mimics the body. Armature and fingerprints are left intentionally exposed, allowing us to bear witness to the physicality of creation by the artist’s hand. In showing the underlying framework of the work (a signature of the artist), Bax invites us to straddle these realms of functionality and absurdity and reframes our perception of the spaces traditionally associated with home, or nesting.
Bax’s humor and fascination with absurdity is most present in the addition of the small-scale work titled “Eyrie,” which hangs from the ceiling. Smartly placed, the sculpture reminds us to look upwards––the only viewpoint not immediately explored when we look at “Roost.” Here Bax demonstrates the inextricable relationship of the human body to a sculptural work––that is that the sculpture exists in its relation to the body and our innate understanding of the form.
“Roost” is on view until November 4th.