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Sunday, 31 October 2010

nika neelova's ghostly art

The Missing House, courtesy of Nika Neelova
It's both a timely delight and welcome surprise to see Nika Neelova win the New Sensations Saatchi Prize. The rescued architectural ruins of her "decaying skeletal installations" resonate most here, but they're only the latest works that have drawn on 23-year-old Russian-born artist's own experiences of displacement and the transitory.

Forest trees have been turned into ghostly signposts with a layer of white emulsion, a collaborative piece saw a carpet of 20,000 eggshells ground to powder by a dancer to expose the fragility of any sense of permanence and a coat of arms made out of sheep bones (and called Bend Sinister) made a fantastic gothic memento mori out of the family tree.

The Missing House (pictured) which was shown last year at the Woburn Square Gallery in London, was all the more spooky for being lifted out of its apparent abandoned mansion setting, a rickety wooden staircase that went nowhere and made a truly ethereal contrast with the bright whiteness of the gallery all the more stark. 

The work that won Nika Neelova the recent New Sensations Prize, The Night Also Falls, takes this contrast a step further, with remains reclaimed from skips and architectural salvage as before, but the materials are completely charred (and charcoal), ready to crumble at any moment,  like celebrating not only the neglected and forgotten, but settings gone forever and supernaturally revisioned. Like her previous pieces, it's also really, really big - not just a fragment of memory, but the deep roots and epic scale of the past in physical form.

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