Martin van Zomeren is pleased to present ‘This Thin Crust of Earth’, the second solo exhibition of Janis Rafa at the gallery. Janis Rafa deals with notions of mortality, mourning and the melancholy of nature outside the conventions of an anthropocentric understanding. Her practice is filtered by abstractions, visual metaphors and mise-en-scènes, in order to create an autonomous genuine world, hovering somewhere between actuality and a personal perception of reality.
The title of the exhibition refers to the homonymous video ‘This Thin Crust of Earth’* staging the burial of a tree. A living tree is extracted from the ground, from its roots; placed horizontally inside a hole on the earth and buried fully underground on the same spot where it was once rooted. The artist converts the physical presence of the tree in the space from vertical to horizontal, and makes its body further disappear from the land’s surface in an act that reconfigures our perception of the given landscape. Visually altering and conceptually deconstructing the given natural environment, the tree is transformed from a three-dimensional object into a non-dimensional point, from a volume to a surface. This inverse geometry provides a paradoxical carving up of space and
its natural arrangement.
Both ‘This Thin Crust of Earth’ and ‘Winter Came Early’, the second video on show, share the common concern in the artist’s practice of violently reinterpreting the landscape. While the first video depicts the ritual of a burial, the second one presents a disruption on the passage of time. In ‘Winter Came Early’ an almond tree shakes vigorously through a violent enforcement. As a result it’s leafs fall prematurely. The act is captured by a high-speed camera, filming in 2000fps.
The video works will be installed in dialogue with a series of paintings made of horse blankets. Collected by the artist through the years, they were used for her horse in a period of ten years. The passing of time and weariness of the fabric is visible on the various stitches made for practical reasons. Representing a sort of second skin of the animal, the special value of these worn materials is exemplified by the gesture of covering them with a thin coating of gold, an allusion to the myth of the Golden Fleece. The work of Janis Rafa continuously returns to personal histories, carefully dealing with the heterogeneous multiplicity of the living and the relations between living and dead, human and non-human.
Janis Rafa (1984, Greece) lives and works in Amsterdam and Athens. She completed her education in Fine Art (2002-2012) at the University of Leeds with a Doctoral on video art practice and she was a resident at the Rijksakademie (2013-2014). Her body of work spans from experimental-documentary practices, to the video-essay, archival footage and most recently cinematic narratives and medium length films in the video installation environment. Her past exhibitions include institutions such as EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam (2016), Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2015), 56th Venice Biennale (parallel event, 2015), International Film Festival Rotterdam (2015), State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (2011) and Thessaloniki Biennial (2009), among others. Her work is part of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam collection.
* The video ‘This Thin Crust of Earth’ was made possible thanks to the kind support of AFK - Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.