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Memory and nostalgic place in Gabriela Avila-Yiptong's abstracted landscapes

 EXHIBITION: Thursday April 14 –...

IN THE BEGINNING Memory and nostalgic place in Gabriela Avila-Yiptong's abstracted landscapes EXHIBITION: Thursday April 14 –...


Memory and nostalgic place in Gabriela Avila-Yiptong’s abstracted landscapes

EXHIBITION: Thursday April 14 – Saturday May 21

In the Beginning maps the upturned geography of places that aren’t entirely real, wavering between the uncertain allusions of memory and the certainty of ground. Transferring vague impressions of tropical Mauritius from photographic artefacts, into dripping vespers and errant line, Gabriela Avila-Yiptong paints scenes of a rootless land, an idea space—land as it cannot be translated across memory or language. Place is no more a certainty than it is a soft impression of nostalgia, interpreted and misconstrued through recollection. Contours alternately fade into mist, or appear prominent and topographical—the latter alluding to Avila-Yiptong’s earlier works, such as her series Tectonic Gastronomy, where land is deconstructed into its geological layers.

Fictional topographies of Mauritius are created out of the negative space where the borders and margins of earth decompose. The behaviour of the earth becomes reflective of the permeability of memory: processes that take millennia to create new land are compacted into an instant, where the ground is present for a moment, and just as simply disappears. Mountain ranges become ancient seafloors. Islands erupt out of ancient volcanic action. Avila-Yiptong emphasises the contrasts between the photographic and impressionistic memories that she manipulates—at the same time, indicating to a sense of longing for the unknown, the untenable. 95% Remains Undiscovered appears submerged in dark liquid, bleeding at its horizon—a photograph undergoing chemical transformation, the disappearing certainty of an event that is sinking into the void, an ecological depth that remains unattainable.

The greater part of In the Beginning is communicated through subtlety and introspection. Spaces are fluid, temporary, cloudy—a sense of a half-shut, dreamy eye in Just Barely, or the physical recoil to the temperature of Sweaty Sunburn Weather. When Avila-Yiptong works on a larger scale, the murkiness of her spaces becomes overwhelming, immersing the viewer beyond a separation between the person and space—the viewer enters and becomes a part of the land. The fickle temperament of light as it falls, sometimes uncertainly, in inverted rays or stray glares—as in Inverse Glare, Memory Block or Foggy Memory—emphasises the alternating immensity and density of the scenes. A sense of the uncanny is heavy in Studying for the Trip; and Extraterrestrial, where nuclear colour auras seem to radiate in an alien time. Creating these experiences through the use of large, dominant colour fields, Avila-Yiptong conveys a hint of the alienation of the self, as it explores a planet that should feel familiar, but is always growing absent.

The humidity Avila-Yiptong paints into her atmospheres creates a sensation of “old place”—an ancient world that is revisioned with a contemporary lightness, as in I feel small, smaller than a drip. In the Beginning resolves with a greater sense of clarity in the triptych The Dream ft. Paved Fluid, where Avila-Yiptong seems to return to a topographic expression that feels more resonant with real places. All of the transient moments depicted in fragments, seem to culminate towards a destination, drawn out in a pathway, a horizon—perhaps a familiar or reassuring sense of place and belonging in the midst of uncertainty.

Written by Lital Khaikin.

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