Wandsworth Councils Pump House Gallery
presents the first UK solo exhibition of recent work by London-based New Zealand artist Sriwhana Spong. The exhibition, a hook but no fish, responds to the artists current research into the Lingua Ignota, a language invented by twelfth century mystic Hildegard von Bingen during a 39 year period spent at Disibodenberg monastery, Germany.
Central to the exhibition is a new film titled a hook but no fish (2017). Shooting on 16mm film, Spong travelled to the site of the monastery where Von Bingen was enclosed as a child with two other women. Supposedly a divine language received by Hildegard, the Lingua Ignota is thought to have possibly been a secret language created to increase solidarity amongst Hildegards sisters. The language is composed of a 23 letter alphabet and introduces new vocabulary into the existing grammatical structure of Latin. Additional nouns include tools such as wagon and plough, however mammals and other creatures have been omitted; this observation informs the title of the show, speculating that perhaps the Lingua Ignota was an apocalyptic language written for a future time where only technology and tools survive.
Spongs connection to her own narrative is present throughout the exhibition and visible in her presentation of a musical bell plate. This instrument is part of an ongoing project that develops a personal orchestra over time influenced by Balinese Gamelan. In Gamelan tradition the pitch of each orchestra is often specific to individual villages, making sound a unique indicator of place, history and custom.
Pulling the work back to a connection with place, language and nature is a series of painted sigils a symbol considered to have magical powers. Each is made using Indian Yellow Tartrazine, a pigment originally sourced from the urine of cows fed with mango leaves. Sigil (Rothschilds mynah) #714 (2017) spells out the name of a critically endangered bird endemic to the island of Bali. Through the act of naming, Spong considers the power language possesses to make things tangible and attempts to halt the species imminent extinction by casting a spell through these abstract paintings.
Alongside a hook but no fish, Pump House Gallery presents the first in a series of events using storytelling to explore the impact human beings have made on the environment.
The first takes place on Wednesday 17 January, 6 8pm with Writing Worlds/Writing Time, an artists talk and writing workshop with Alex Ressel and Kerri Meehan, who will share stories and materials from their research into narratives around nuclear power.
Sriwhana Spong is a New Zealand artist based in London. She works across various mediums film, sculpture, performance where experiential knowledge, autobiography, and fiction are entangled with carefully researched materials and forms that reflect their particular cultural contexts and sources. Recent exhibitions include: Im Wintergarten, daadgalerie, Berlin (2016); Oceanic Feeling with Maria Taniguchi, ICA, Singapore (2016); havingseensnake, Michael Lett, Auckland (2017); The Score, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2017). a hook but no fish will travel to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, in May 2018