Same River Twice: Vlatka Horvat and Tim Etchells
Renata Fabbri, Milan
29 March – 3 June 2023
Photo: Vlatka Horvat, Mattia Mognetti
From the press release:
Renata Fabbri is pleased to announce Same River Twice, a two-person exhibition by the London-based artists Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat, a continuation of their close ongoing dialogue spanning two decades.
Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat each have a varied artistic practice that moves between different forms: from sculpture, performance and writing to drawing, photography and video. In addition to pursuing their individual practices, the two artists – working alongside one another as partners in real life for over twenty years – have collaborated on a range of projects and initiatives. These have included making collaborative videos, photography projects, installations and performances, as well as devising and curating workshops, live events and exhibitions. This is the first time they are showing their solo work together in a gallery setting.
Across all of gallery’s spaces, the exhibition presents new sculptural pieces and works on paper by Horvat alongside new neon works by Etchells, all made especially for the occasion. Although the two artists’ practices are distinct, they share a mutual interest in processes of repetition and in the exploration of structures that both eschew and produce variation. The titular phrase – Same River Twice – speaks to both artists’ ongoing investigation of ideas around change, transformation and instability as well as invoking the sense of flow and movement – of nature, of bodies, of time, of language – that many of the works in the show pursue. Etchells’s use of written text in the form of short vivid phrases and Horvat’s focus on deceptively simple yet paradoxical sculptural gestures both serve to implicate the viewer in a playful, complex and dynamic process in respect of the works.
Horvat’s new sculptures and drawings use a range of materials – including paper, textiles, thread, ceramics and wood – in different combinations to create a set of pieces that refer to the gesture of holding, joining or cradling, creating interactions of materials in the same work. In the works on paper, Horvat reworks the page as an object, sometimes connecting two pages with threads or pieces of fabric to suggest a form of a rudimentary book; other times tearing them into strips to be repaired with bookbinding thread, producing traces that resemble abstracted writing or a material record of the passing of time. In Horvat’s series of enigmatic floor sculptures, the different sized cylinders made of glazed ceramics are held, cradled or partially buttressed by curved wedge-like corner forms in wood. Horvat’s cylinders are objects capable of motion via rolling but their accompanying wedge forms function as metaphorical or material impediments to movement – providing protection and shielding, as well as entrapping and containing the tubular objects. In other sculptural works, Horvat uses soft organic materials such as wool felt and silk, repeating the gesture of a ‘U’ to become a wave form, suggestive of infinite continuation and an “ongoingness” which resonates with both of Etchells’s works in the show.
Etchells’s new neon pieces extend his long-standing work on the contradictory aspects of language, drawing attention to both the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas, and its simultaneous propensity to create rich fields of uncertainty and ambiguity. Often appearing to address the viewer directly through such works, Etchells is interested to create moments of thoughtfulness and playful encounter in public settings, drawing each person that encounters the work into spaces of intimate reflection. The first group of Etchells’s neon pieces produced for the show – Beautiful Words – comprises a series of six neon text sculptures installed in a 10-meter long line, each individual section spelling out the phrase “Beautiful Words’ in both a different colour and a different type – as if summoning various ‘beautiful’ utterances into the room. In the two works presented in the basement gallery – Suddenly (Morning) and Suddenly (Night) – Etchells makes contradictory assertions about the perceived passage of time (’Suddenly it was morning” / “Suddenly it was night”), playfully invoking distinct narrative scenarios involving the two parts of the day, and imaginatively “producing” the change between the two temporal states in the viewer’s mind. Installed in the subterranean space at Renata Fabbri and exploiting the fact of the absence of natural light in the room, these two statements create a tangible uncertainty as to which scenario might be unfolding outside the room.
With thanks to Fornace Ceramics Lab (Milano) and Neon Floris (Torino).
Critical text by Giovanna Manzotti here.
Works in the show:
Wave Form I, II, 2023
Wool felt, thread
Soft Spine (Open), I, II, 2023
Handmade Indian cotton rag, textiles, waxed linen thread
Sentences I, II, 2023
Waxed linen thread on handmade Indian cotton rag
Stream of Consciousness I, II, 2023
Waxed linen thread on handmade Indian cotton rag
Phases of the Moon I-VIII, 2023
Glazed ceramics, birch plywood
Excavations (02), (09), (19), 2013-23
Giclée print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag
And Counting (Six), 2022
Modified clock, silicone rubber cord
Beautiful Words (Blue), (Red), (Green), (White), (Pink), (Purple), 2023
Suddenly (Morning) & Suddenly (Night), 2023
Arte e Critica – Spring/Summer 2023: “You can’t step in the same river twice.” Interview with Francesca Pagliuca (in Italian and English).
Mousse Magazine (link / pdf) – May 2023: Critical text accompanying Same River Twice: In the Nooks of Time and Space, in the Crannies of Language by Giovanna Manzotti. Italian and English versions available here.