CAMPLE LINE, an independent arts organization located in the South West of Scotland specialising in thought-provoking international contemporary art and film, announces their latest exhibition that opens this Spring. The exhibition, Effigies and Elginisms, by artist Renee So includes sculpture, stoneware, glazed ceramic tile and textiles that respond to CAMPLE LINE’s spaces.
The Hong Kong born artist, who grew up in Melbourne, Australia and currently lives and works in London, has had exhibitions across the UK and beyond but Effigies and Elginisms will be herfirst solo one in Scotland and refers specifically to representations of the female figure in prehistoric cultures.
Renee So draws upon a wide array of material culture, from 16th and 17th century stoneware, Roman busts, Assyrian sculpture and reliefs, ancient vessels from China, pre-Columbian figurines, Egyptian female goddesses, and modernist textiles designed by the Bauhaus. Her interest in figurative traditions and narratives also embraces portraiture, cartoon and caricature.
She has spoken previously of a focus in her work around representations of the male figure throughout history, with a particular attention to beards, pipes, cigarettes, boots, wigs and hats as signifiers or props by which men projected status and power, and to sources such as the Bellarmine Jar. Her recent work by contrast has also marked a new concentration on traditions of representation of the female form, drawing on 5000 year old Valdivian figures that are specific to Ecuador’s southwest coast and the earliest known ceramic figurine tradition in the Americas, as well as other prehistoric female figures.
For this upcoming exhibition, So continues to draw on a wide range of references from an archaic Parisian by-law to prehistoric female figurines (Effigies), and items looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860, during the Second Opium War, by French and British Troops under the direction of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and High Commissioner to China and son of Thomas Bruce, 7th Lord Elgin (Elginisms).
The artist explains that her female figures “are inspired by figurative pre-historic pottery and the parallel history of Venus figures which are the earliest representations of the female body. No one knows why they were made, but they are usually small, and can fit in the palm of one’s hand. They are widely believed to be good luck charms for fertility. They were usually made from clay, stone or ivory and feature in ancient South American, African, Egyptian and European cultures.”
A group of four glazed sculptures draw in wider references still. A vessel fashioned to look like a pair of trousers relates to the repealing in 2013 of a 213-year-old law banning women in Paris from wearing trousers. Its near companions evoke items that were once part of the Chinese Imperial collection: a stout glazed four-legged bowl form based on Emperor Qianlong’s ornate Zuo Bao Yi Gui, an archaic bronze ritual food ‘gui,’ alongside a glazed snuff bottle and Scholar’s stone, examples of which have found their way in to private and public collections around the world.
Alongside these, So will include an arrangement of dried opium poppies in a vessel of three stacked opium balls, which refer to the opium factories of the East India Company and to a 19th century Punch cartoon depicting James Bruce, entitled ‘New Elgin Marbles’. Also installed will be a new hand-made textile, constructed using the traditional Korean Pojagi patchwork technique.
The exhibition takes place at CAMPLE LINE from 2nd April – 19th June 2022.