Michele Mathison’s ‘Over and Over’ is situated in Whatifitheworld’s main exhibition space which I enter through an open garage door. A marble ramp leads up to the white cube and behind me a car rushes past on the street. There are distant outside noises like wind and the hum of the city but these fade as I get closer to the show. I feel like I have entered a sacred space.
‘Over and Over’ makes use of materials like copper, steel, marble, and sandstone to create sculptural totems and other complimenting artworks. Mathison re-purposes these industrial materials which are often used for commercial building purposes to remind us how our relationship to the earth runs deep enough to the point of it being spiritual.
The totemic sculptures Split 1 and Split 2 stand like two buildings, the colour of a bronze five cent coin. The sheets of steel covering its surface are like a collection of crab shells, but closer observation reveals how the surface also looks like brown skin and its different shades. This can be read as how skin wears and tears and heals itself over time just like the earth from which these materials are sourced. The effect one receives is an emotional religious feeling I have often felt whilst observing sculptural pieces of African gods. However, Split 1 and Split 2 create this effect through suggestion as both sculptures look like a being manifesting itself into this realm without settling to a final form. This illustrates how this religious feeling is not the result of just a combination of the artists ideas and craftmanship, but also an inherent human response that understands our connectedness to all things.
Fault looks like ice with green moss growing on it. It is made from rectangular steel bars packed on top of each other. It looks alien or like a petrified thunderbolt. Power emanates from this sculpture, but it also appears delicate. It is like Mathison was engaging in a game like building with a card deck. The work references the tectonic plates that cause earthquakes. Despite these tectonic shifts the earth eventually settles. This appearance of a delicate balance also relates to Mathison’s own lineage as a child of parents of two different nationalities. The sculpture acknowledges a lack of stability in an individual’s personal history. However, Fault remains firm despite this delicate appearance and it is for this reason it that it also works as totemic sculpture that speaks to our connection to the earth and how through the right acknowledgement of our ancestral roots our sense of self is stabilized.
Crossing is a marble mass with black steel objects on the surface. It is a direct comment on migration and how a people often are transported to different places, how a group of people can gather on a boat or truck whilst being transported to another part of the earth. It looks like pointers on a map. This makes it a piece about how families are often split due to the unpredictable nature of the effect of migration in search of a better living.
Considering this ‘Over and Over’ is an exhibition that not only speaks about how this uprooting can result in disastrous effects on people that are far away from their homelands, but its use of totemic sculptures rooted in sculptural history of Mathison’s homeland reminds us of the importance of being rooted in the various manifestations of our lineage wherever we may be in the world.