Olivia Bax at L21 Gallery

Artist: Olivia Bax

Exhibition title: Spill

Venue: L21 Gallery, Mallorca, Spain

Date: January 13 – March 9, 2022

Photography: Juan David Cortés  / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and L21 Gallery, Mallorca

Stalactites drip on wet bones while I listen to the sound of a cave that encloses the green-blue water inside… it has been many years since I visited Cuevas del Drach, so well-known on the island, but looking at Olivia Bax’s sculptures brings me back to them. On their impact on the making of this exhibition, she says,

“I spent time on Google looking for images of the caves in Mallorca: imagining the island was on split levels. The top level – where the gallery sits – shows human intervention. The bottom level – underground – shows organic mass, moulded and formed independently. One level is about accruing, the other is about erosion.”

Olivia Bax’s new sculptures explore the complex relationships between two levels: the organic and the artificial, paying attention to the way in which forms are configured on each of them. These are large-scale pieces, self-sufficient entities with their own geological and architectural principles. When entering her new exhibition, titled “Spill”, those principles become apparent. At first, the sculptures catch the eye, then they invite the viewer to move through the space, in and around them. In the process it is possible to get to know the hidden nooks and crannies, the rich textures, the intense colours.

Bax’s process is additive, it is based on the accumulation of different materials and elements that make up a living organism. Some of these materials are found objects that later find their own place in the whole, embraced by an enveloping structure that grows around them. Colour is an essential element in the layering process of the work and in her understanding of form. The approach is pictorial, highlighting the volumes and making them grow in intensity.

“I have been pondering the difference between organic and human-made structures and wondering where these two elements might meet. Formally, the sculptures’ inner workings suggest they might have made themselves. Materially, the texture shows evidence of human interference: the hand- generated-pulp has been pressed and smeared onto the surface. This body of work is searching for new perspectives.”

The sculptures rest on the ground like colourful rocks from another planet or impossible cities crossed by an infinite number of channels.This change of perspective to which we refer allows the works to be interpreted in multiple ways: from their encounter with nature or with architecture; from the memory of caves or the projection of the city. The steel structure that grows around the main volume of the sculptures expands the space they occupy in the exhibition room.The channels that run back and forth seem, as in “Glissade” and “Pah-d’-bah”, an artificial body with an external circulation system that serves the purpose of carrying essential fluids and keeping them alive.

With this, Olivia Bax invites us to reflect on how our body is also immersed in these often invisible structures that maintain the pulse of a city or a building: pipes, ventilation ducts, electric cables etc. In a way, our own body is also traversed by channels and systems that function as a whole. Perhaps artificial constructions are nothing more than a reflection of our own internal structures? And if this were so, the difference between dissecting a human body and dissecting a building would be more a shift of perspective and a change of scale…

“During lockdown I received a postcard of the Barbican Centre, a building in London I know well, from a friend. In the illustrated image, a side wall had been removed so we could see the cross section of the building: its inner membrane. I contemplated the spaces; wondering if the atrium shown in the image was the theatre or the cinema. I discovered the building again. I saw it from a new perspective.”

A two voices text by Esmeralda Gómez Galera and Olivia Bax

Olivia Bax, Spill, 2022, exhibition view, L21 Gallery, Mallorca

Olivia Bax, Spill, 2022, exhibition view, L21 Gallery, Mallorca

Olivia Bax, Spill, 2022, exhibition view, L21 Gallery, Mallorca

Olivia Bax, Spill, 2022, exhibition view, L21 Gallery, Mallorca

Olivia Bax, Boo-Boo, 2021, Steel, chicken wire, paper, household paint, plaster, UV resistant glue, epoxy clay, UV varnish, 157 x 130 x 114 cm

Olivia Bax, Meander Scar, 2021, Steel, chicken wire, paper, household paint, plaster, UV resistant glue, epoxy clay, funnel, UV varnish, ply wood, 125 x 163 x 92 cm

Olivia Bax, Glissade, 2021, Steel, polystyrene, cardboard, funnels, newspaper, UV resistant PVA, household paint, UV varnish, castor wheels, 141 x 190 x 71 cm

Olivia Bax, Pah-d’-Bah, 2021, Steel, foam, polystyrene, plastic funnels, newspaper, UV resistant PVA, paint, plaster, UV varnish, 103 x 370 x 60 cm