Installation Art from Donna Huanca at the Arnolfini in Bristol.  

Installation art has never been my favourite genre but being an eclectic site I should address the shortfall of entries. Earlier in the week we went to the Arnolfini in Bristol and this work by Donna Huanca was on the ground floor. 

The Tate definition of Installation art is “used to describe large-scale, mixed-media constructions, often designed for a specific place or for a temporary period of time”. I think this adequately describes this work, but understanding it was certainly a challenge. 

Donna Huanca, Cueva de Copal, 2022, mixed media, white sand, audio and fragrance, Arnolfini Contemporary Arts, Bristol.
Donna Huanca, Cueva de Copal, 2022, mixed media, white sand, audio and fragrance, Arnolfini Contemporary Arts, Bristol.

Cueva de Copal draws on “painting, performance, choreography, video and sensory interventions” according to the curation notes. Firstly I will describe what I saw and then articulate what I think I should have seen. Entering the space I saw the mixed media paintings, rich in blues, greens and whites; full of curvilinear figures, but somewhat abstract. Below the paintings were a beach of pure white sand which clearly complimented the paintings. Behind me, the other wall is a rich ultramarine surface which pierces the space, pushing you into the beach sand. Also is a stand alone sculpture with similar mixed media painted surfaces concentrating on green hues. All the visual work is complimented with an audio track and strong fragrance – the artist’s own recipe.

Donna Huanca, Cueva de Copal, 2022, mixed media, white sand, audio and fragrance, Arnolfini Contemporary Arts, Bristol.
Donna Huanca, Cueva de Copal, 2022, mixed media, white sand, audio and fragrance, Arnolfini Contemporary Arts, Bristol.

But what is going on or, more correctly, what should I be seeing? Well the curation notes describe the work as an experiential installation around the architecture of a new (individual) site. She says she is ‘building on past works, excavating layers and transforming her live skin paintings into new hybrid forms. This is to understand the body and it’s place in nature. In reality I found this difficult to see while stood in the installation space. Since visiting I have read much about the artist and and her works. 

Donna Huanca’s installation work appears to derive from live choreography and her painting focuses on the human body. Her previous exhibitions around the world have involved painting nude models (female, male and trans) with colours (mainly blues) and sealing with plastic film. Together with all the other sensory experiences this seems to compliment my understanding.

Donna Huanca, Cueva de Copal, 2022, mixed media detail

It appears that for the installation at the Arnolfini the models were painted  in private before the show and the mixed media works were made from these inspirations. Somehow with that additional knowledge I feel the work misses the main experimental point. However the installation is on until 29th May so I think I will return and immerse myself again, armed with all the additional knowledge.

Cueva de Copal by Donna Huanca is at the Arnolfini in Bristol until May 29th May 2022. In the upper gallery is a tretrospective of the figurative artist, Paula Rego.

Images courtesy of Arnolfini, Bristol

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Susie says:

    Yes a similar experience for me my senses were overwhelmed by the strong fragrance so didn’t really immerse myself in the art I think a revisit with extra knowledge would be good

    Like

    1. Interesting but worthy of more research!!

      Like

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