A Focus on 3 Environmental Artists

Selected from Basel, Volta and Liste by Pamela Lee




Originally known for uncomfortable renditions of domestic settings through photography and installation, Ramo’s recent work presented at Art Basel, is created using earthy, grounding, foundational materials. A large installation work Evidência, was exhibited this year. Forming a tall, triangular tower, the sculpture reticently filled one corner of the gallery stand. Sloping upwards and petering out as it rose, the structure imparted a feeling of gazing at an unattainable goal or looking down a path to an idea still out of reach. Built on a foundation of soil, wood and metal net, this piece was evidence of Ramo’s capacity for building truly profound sculptural installations.


Also on the booth were a number of works from the Avre Alas series. The sculptural wall hangings of auburn and umber hues, strips and layers of paper, textile and pigment sewn together are indicative of layers of soil and the topography of the earth. At the same time, when considering Ramo’s propensity for dissecting the inner realm of personal thought, this layering can easily point to the mesh of thoughts, consciousness and emotion we experience as humans. When reflected on as such, this work feels like a contemplation on the joint complexity of human and earth alike. As Ramo is conspicuously aware, our readings even of simple spaces and situations are highly subjective. Booth these works seem to maneuver through this knowledge by subtly playing with our perceptions, awareness and relationship objects and the contexts in which we live.







Finnish born artist Axel Antas showed new photographic series at Volta Basel with Galleria Heino, Helsinki. The work caught our attention because it instantly gave the impression of being rooted in a struggle to understand and relate to our physical world around us.


Kaleidoscope Landscape, consists of large colour photographs taken in Mexico of migrating butterflies. At the point of photographing, the butterflies had travelled over 4500 km from America to spend the winter before reversing their journey. The complete migration is an ongoing fluid journey through four or five generations. These photographs impart a sense of abstract impression in discourse with photorealism, although rendered in immaculate high definition, they create a layered experience when viewing from a distance in contrast to closely examining the details of the sworming butterflies against the foliage. These photographs were also accompanied by the work Kaleidoscope Landscape (drop).Inspired by the phenomena of the mass migration of butterflies, this image depicts a sculpture, which was created as a reflection of nature before being deliberately oversaturated with digitally printed butterflies.


Antas recurrently deals with the intrusion of digital manipulation into nature and landscapes. Uncanny Valley, a previous body of work, sees the interjection of concrete globes into photographs of forestry. These weights animate and anthropomorphise the sedentary trees; arms, leaves and branches appear heavy and sad, seemingly burdened by an emotional strain. These works exist as a direct comment on how with the virtual, digital sphere increasingly mediating our lives, we are progressively separated from our own physicality and the tangible, natural realm. Antas seeks to highlight this gap and the resultant alienation that it propagates. By directly affecting the landscape he creates symbolic representations of the body within the environment, rooting us within it and forging a reconnection.





Oscar Santillán is a self-taught artist from Ecuador whose work we encountered on the 80m2 Livia Benavides Gallery (Lima), stand at the Liste fair. The gallery presented a number of intellectual, inquisitive and captivating works that gave an insight into his didactic purview.


How the River thinks, was presented through the whirring kinetics of a slide projector casting ephemeral images on the wall. The slides used are a result of Santillán’s expedition down the amazon in a canoe last year. On this pilgrimmage, the artist took actual samples of the water and floating little fragments of the rainforest. Knowing that this river (called “Kushuimi” by the native Shuars) is near 50 km long, and that the tray of a slide projector has 80 slots, he proceeded to gather those samples every 600 meters. In this way, the whole length of the river was captured within the work. Rather than drying out the botanical samples (to preserve and isolate their state), Santillán has kept them as small, individual eco-systems. And so, the work presents a strange, living herbarium of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The title of this piece refers to prominent anthropological texts such as ‘How Natives Think’ (1922) and, more recently, the groundbreaking ‘How Forests Think’ (2013) written by Eduardo Kohn based on his field research in the same environment.


Another remarkable work on exhibit was Tear Telescope. This installation explores the mechanics of Galoleo’s early 17th century telescope that radically transformed humanity. The work interrogates the simple definitions of a telescope as ‘a device to extend the reach of the eye’, by manipulating teardrops in order to activate them as telescopic lenses. Through a diligent, mathematical process it is actually possible to make astronomical observations through this tears telescope. The piece consists of photographs of the moon taken through the tear telescope and of the video documentation describing the way in which this process is carried out. These are displayed on a glass structure, which allows the combination of video footage and photograph to create a lustrous and elusive wall sculpture. The work crystalizes how we are but a fascinating speck of dust in the midst of endless space and time. The cultivation of such a powerful tool, made from our own tears accentuates our connection to the solar systems and ecosystems to which we are beholden.


Pamela Lee for Informality



Axel Antas: https://www.axelantas.net/
Cynthia Garcia ‘House of Cards: A Conversation with Sara Ramo about her Provocative Work at Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel’, [https://www.newcitybrazil.com/2018/05/08/house-of-cards-a-conversation-with-sara-ramo-about-her-provocative-work-at-fortes-daloia-gabriel/

Travesia Cuatro: www.travesiacuatro.com

Oscar Santillán: http://www.oscarsantillan.com/

June 23, 2019