Artists reflect on how we honour the past

Arresting artworks that explore how people’s remembrances of the past are more fragile than they often appear are being showcased at the University.

Artist with painting
“Qiu Zhijie’s sprawling maps are infused with logical representations of topography as well as illogical projections of fantasy."

Talbot Rice Gallery in Old College is hosting three concurrent solo exhibitions by internationally acclaimed artists, each probing how history is commemorated.

The works of Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie, Italy’s Lara Favaretto and Nira Pereg from Israel question the significance of monuments and the ways in which these resonate across cultures.

These meditations on people’s intimate relationship with the past offer something more momentary, imaginative and nuanced than permanent, physical reminders, curators say.

Digging deep

Qiu Zhijie has created a series of ink-paintings and an atmospheric installation evoking an archaeological dig in what is his first solo exhibition in the UK.

Qiu’s practice embraces calligraphy, poetry and teaching – and. as a thinker and cartographer, he has earned worldwide critical recognition for his concept and practice of ‘total art’.

Qiu Zhijie has long been celebrated for his large-scale ink on paper paintings and sculptures of topographies, inscribed with fictional descriptions. His work brings together different cultures and knowledge-systems to propose alternative worldviews.

“Against this backdrop,” says Talbot Rice Director Tessa Giblin, “Qiu’s sprawling maps are infused with logical representations of topography as well as illogical projections of fantasy.

“His work represents an entangled, contradictory world which for all its diversity, is also inseparably co-dependent.”

Passing moments

Lara Favaretto’s Momentary Monument takes the form of a giant library of vintage books that will disappear over the course of the exhibition.

Over the past two decades, the artist has staged interventions that she calls ‘momentary monuments’, drawing attention to the futility and impermanence of memorials.

The gallery will host a monolithic oversized bookcase displaying 2,500 unwanted books donated by local libraries and second-hand bookshops.

“Each book contains a folded image from the artist’s archive, placed between the pages,” says Tessa Giblin. “During the exhibition, visitors are invited to leaf through the books and take one away.

“It is therefore in the audience’s hands to dismantle the ‘monument’ and the sum of its parts are thus re-distributed to bookshelves in people’s homes.”

Sacred spaces

Nira Pereg’s video installations document a site used by both Jewish and Muslim worshippers in the ancient city of Hebron/al-Khalil.

Their focus is the pilgrimage site Cave of the Patriarchs – the shrine known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi and to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah.

Pereg’s work is anchored in a documentary practice that reveals and questions the conflicting behavioural protocols that co-exist in spaces of geopolitical, religious and ideological significance.

“Nira Pereg emphasises the performative qualities of routine activities in the site,” says Tessa Giblin, “and these touch upon the link between ceremony and territory.

“The work brings forth a reality that is far from the general public’s awareness, revealing the complex way in which systems pertaining to religious belief, social norms and politics intertwine.”

Qiu Zhijie | Lara Favaretto | Nira Pereg is at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Old College, from 29 October to  18 February.

Talbot Rice Gallery

Image credit - Neil Hanna Photography