Submarine Twilight

Guest posting by Frances Rankine, Curator, Word & Image Department

‘I was fortunate enough to be in the Daiwa Foundation gallery on my own when I went to see Sian’s exhibition for a second time. The objects were hung in a lovely sunny room and it added to the wonderful sense of stillness and quiet that the images bring to me.

When I sat down to write my contribution to Sian’s blog I was re-reading Tim Travis’ essay in the exhibition publication ‘Of Dust’. Up until then I had puzzled over something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on with the images and then I saw the words ‘submarine twilight’ and it came to me that the images of the tea house models are like submerged, underwater buildings. The images strike me as being very quiet and mysterious, rather distant, abandoned spaces frozen in time.  Sian’s use of the lacquered surface and the process of dusting the image with pure silver or gold powder to bring out the image on the paper seems to me to contribute to this effect of depth and ‘wateriness’. Although the process is very two dimensional it has produced this very deep, three dimensional effect. I get a real sense of looking down, and rather than the images registering as small and intimate, they produce almost the opposite effect on me – I experience them rather as something large being seen from afar – they have a kind of monumental quality that is disorientating. They also have an ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ effect which gives you the impression that you could dive into the pieces and be in a very different and safe place, which takes me back to the idea of ‘sanctuary’ as a place of safety and refuge, a place which is enclosing and protective. The mirror effect the lacquer produces also harks back to Sian’s preoccupation in her exhibition ‘Gaze’ with reflections and the sense of distancing but at the same time beckoning. There is feeling that one wants to be drawn into the spaces but the mirror-like surface keeps one at a distance.’

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