aPpraise: "Ilana Halperin" - National Museum of Scotland

I first came across this American artist whilst voraciously collating the artist series booklets at the Camden Art Centre Bookshop...little did I know the treats she had in store for us, where I managed to catch a glimpse of her work at the National Museum of Scotland during her residency there. Funnily when I first saw the green flags outside the museum, I didnt realise it was a museum but thought it was a beautiful building for a Waitrose!! 


Halperin's tasty offerings stems from her interest in geology and her original training in stone carving manifests itself through the geological objects that she presents but without a hammer and mallet in sight. Instead we are taken through a series of displays, each a themed collection in its own right.

For instance the first called 'The Library' (and is also the over-arching title of the sow) which consists of the found 'geo-mediums' - 'mica' fragments displayed in a large stone quarried in Caithness - north of Scotland and then shaped. At first, looking at the Mica tablets, you think the small markings are natural, but then you read that they were designed on a digital tablet by Halperin then laser etched onto the Mica. 

"The Libray" - Etched Found Mica



Stone Library with etched mica fragments
 The mica is often referred to as books which links to the theme of the exhibition - The library.
As quoted by write John McPhee in his book 'In Suspect Terrain (83)' - Rocks are the record of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet but you leant how to read.' 

Haleprin also presents a number of geo-artefacts under the heading - 'We form contact' which all have interesting formation stories - ie through contact with another element. Although one might question whether this is 'art', one could say that the making was in the form of the natural process and the artist is rather like the curator, bringing these objects to life through a constructed header or classifier, where in a huge museum collection of rocks on display (eg like at the natural history museum in London), most of the rocks would go unnoticed.

One of the main pieces - and probably my favourite, was the 'We form Geology' piece. A hand carved piece of wood submerged in the Blue Lagoon thermal pools in Iceland so that it became encrusted in silica deposits. Interestingly the piece was displayed sitting on a mirror which references the idea that the waterfalls being in continuous motion formed the crystals.

'We form Geology"


Halperin's work certainly brought a soft, ephemeral touch to the apparent hardness of geological materials, bringing them to life with a mix of artistic processes together with ideas of the geological cycle and the human cycle and the relationship between them - which she has a deep interest in. The show was small and compact - like the materials used used but on closer inspection, it packed a punch, you'll never quite look at rocks in the same way again.

You can find more information about the artist here. 

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