Preview: Vanessa Billy – Sustain, Sustain
First solo exhibition in Scotland from Swiss artist aims to reconsider preconceptions about everyday objects
Swiss artist Vanessa Billy creates unlikely conversation pieces, bringing together found objects such as lightbulbs, vitamin pills and rocks with her own elements made in traditional art materials including paper, bronze, concrete, glass and resin. In exploring these contrary combinations between the familiar and unfamiliar, she invites us to reconsider our preconceived ideas about the objects that surround us in daily life. ‘It is very hard to break through the surface of what you know, or think you know,’ she explains. ‘It’s about being able to have an experience again with something, so being able to see it in a different light.’
The playful and often child-like nature of her artworks resemble the backyard experiments of other well-known Swiss artists such as Fischli / Weiss or Roman Signer, who also draw upon the arte povera tradition of searching for the hidden, conceptual possibilities within dilapidated or discarded materials. But her sculptural works use materials which relate more to the environment, in all its messy, complicated reality; Billy is all too aware that ‘natural’ is now a muddy and obscure term open to interpretation.
Her response to this ambiguity is to let some elements of her sculptures appear to have aged naturally over time as if shaped by elemental forces, such as her bronze and concrete casts, while others are as delicate and light as a tied-up bag of water or a crumpled sheet of paper, shaped by the ‘natural’ movements of her own body.
Billy’s display for Collective Gallery’s City Dome is her first solo exhibition in Scotland, creating a new body of work for this site that explores the ways in which natural resources are used and abused in the endless quest for innovation, and asking us to consider what sustainability really means today.
Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 21 Dec.