The Earth Murmurs While We Sleep

Lisa Wigham’s large scale print installation The Earth Murmurs While We Sleep fills – rising and falling below – the mezzanine level of Blackpool’s Grundy Gallery. The exhibited work was made in response to the artists’ recent residency at the Arquetopia Foundation in Puebla, Mexico; bringing Wigham’s practice from this other landscape of South America, and translating it back to the environment of northwest England.

The large single side printed roll of turquoise paper functions as a sculptural echo of the Mexican landscape – in this case overlooked by the small aged postcard depicting two volcanoes, which in reality loom over the inhabited areas below. For Wigham, the presence of these potentially catastrophic natural features ‘whisper a smoky threat’, a promise of disaster balanced here within the delicate nature of the work.

Snatches of language are roughly printed and overlaid in black ink, the traces of this process clearly visible: the edges of the roller and lines of the paper demonstrating these physical processes. Letters offer a cacophony of language murmured and mistranslated into visual noise. There are occasional glimpses of visible letters, which emerge from the darker mass and hum at the centre of the printed matter.

The elegant lines of the fragile suspended paper demonstrate the tangible delicacy of the medium. Printed onto the paper used as tablecloth for parties in the region (known as ‘party paper’) we can sense the tension the materials are under. A subtle connotation: below the surface, a barely perceptible threat that this work may rip and fall at any second, liable to destructive forces beyond the artists’ control. Reflecting through this use of media both the geological and political environments the work has emerged from.

This inherent immediacy within the work also reflects the sense of the piece representing a fixed moment in time. As viewers we are aware that the materials might only be in place for a limited time, and likewise the particular societies and customs which they were inspired by. The large print itself acting as a palimpsest like account of the cultural traditions of the region, and its potentially unstable community.

The grand scale of the work belies a minimal simplicity of approach reflected in the singular clean curve of the exhibition’s printed content. Within the gallery space there is an assured approach to the curation, giving this work its impact as a striking piece in a space potentially difficult to negotiate. Small details such as the fixing of the work in place with an old beam and simple pulley ropes give the work an air of assurance. In addition to this the small found postcard hangs beside the print, reversing the roles and scale: the volcanic mountains depicted in the postcard watch over the new creation by Wigham, which in this case looms over them.

Hannah Elizabeth Allan is an artist, writer and lecturer based in Lancashire.

Image courtesy of Lisa Wigham Grundy Art Gallery.

The Earth Murmurs While We Sleep, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool.

25 April – 20 June 2015.

Published 09.07.2015 by James Schofield in Reviews

501 words