Erin Honeycutt: The Spiral of Love

Thóra Sigurðardóttir´s work in ENGROS, The Former Fruitmarket, Valby Copenhagen 2017

Þóra Sigurðardóttir is familiar with working in site-specific installations in abandoned or transitional spaces. The exhibition Dalir og Holar in the West of Iceland is her ongoing project since 2008, along with Sólveig Aðalsteinsdóttir, using abandoned sites for the openness the architecture offers in which to experiment with the space as a new frontier.
ENGROS, partly inspired by Dalir og Holar, is taking place in Grønttorvet in Copenhagen, a former fruit and vegetable market in Valby, Copenhagen- the space awaits its future, partly demolished and in transition. The exhibition is artist initiated and organised, by the artists active within and PIRPA, all sculpture based artists. Each artist chooses a space within the site to create a reaction to the architectural/historical/spacial offerings.

Þóra has chosen a narrow tower (2.95m x 2.8m) whose only purpose is to contain a spiral staircase.

Þóra’s reaction to the site is to expand its existence through the medium of drawing. Stairs, as an architectural layer and a transition phase in themselves, represent a space between in which invisible matter structures the ascension and descension of the body through space. For Þóra, the staircase is an important metaphor for personal development, besides being an interesting phenomena of space, form, and matter. In previous work, these in-between spaces have been brought up as a layered place featuring horizontal and vertical planes.

A staircase is inherently tied to the body. Its horizontal and vertical lines match to our own bodily architecture like two fine-tuned machines built for each other as a path beyond. Likewise, the architectural guidelines for bodily measurements aligning to the staircase are extensive. As in Duchamp’s Nude Descending the Staircase, these two systems of representation also point towards a metaphysical interpretation. The horizontal and vertical lines create a matrix of visible and invisible support systems. It is these same elements of horizontal and vertical that hold the whole structure of space in architecture together. The Finnish architectural philosopher, Juhani Pallasmaa wrote: “The art of architecture creates spatial and material metaphors of our fundamental existential encounters…”

In her response, Þóra draws an image of a collapsed matrix directly on the wall. The matrix of horizontal and vertical lines, with their metaphorical efforts spent, are collapsed along with their knowledge of the order of the world. The collapse is a fold of time and space. The matrixial lines are also the base knowledge about the world in classical perspective drawings- when an artist learns to draw (and Þóra is a drawing teacher) these lines are what teaches the student about the world, the reality of its landscape, and most importantly, his bodily relationship to the world. One must be in a body to have perspective. The student must learn to base all knowledge on the reality of their vision; there is nothing imaginary about it, although, that is what the brain is so fantastic at doing- filling in the invisible with things it is familiar with and creating successiveness in a scene, whether it exists or not. The lines are teaching us about truth.

These two basic principles of horizontal and vertical lines used in cartography to map the earth are also what maps our bodies to the earth through perspective. If these lines did not exist, we would be floating without anchor point but this matrix anchors us to the world. The grid allows us to draw what we see, our point of view and ours alone, both personal and universal. To be honest with reality one has to be completely true to the senses.

This classical structure of perspective drawing which maps the body to the world relates to the classical notion of the staircase in Plato’s Symposium, a structure used by the priestess Diotima to reflect on the evolution of types of love spanning from the material to the spiritual. The only cause for the separation of matter and spirit in the first place is unbeknownst to the structure. At the top of the staircase, Diotima says we find an understanding of beauty itself and that it is the nature of this beauty that is the ultimate object of love, transforming whatever it comes into contact with. It is knowledge “…of a singular sort…” she says. This singularity is fitting for the staircase as a form that encompasses matter and spirit, the invisible and visible. All lines lead to the realization of truth through the values of appearances.

At the top of the spiral staircase in þóra’s exhibition is a locked door. Two windows greet you as you arrive at the top platform and underneath these windows are prints of digitally scanned linoleum-clichés. This type of reproduction and its repercussion points toward a movement of the aura. To scan them is to map them virtually.

The deep cuts of the linoleum, digitally scanned, blur recognition between concave and convex. To distinguish between what goes in and what goes out, one must focus on value- the convex receives reflected light, while the concave does not. In this way, the materials explore each other fractally, infinitely in detail and in an expanse.

The ideal beauty of the spiral staircase takes the visitor on a journey through the matrix of horizontal and vertical lines that help navigate the mysteries of love. One has the ability to ascend or descend at their own free will.
-Erin Honeycutt

* Pallasmaa, Juhani. “Stairways of the Mind” in International Forum of Psychoanalysis Volume 9 (2001), numbers 1-2, July 6: 7-18.

Þóra Sigurðardóttir (b.1954) uses a variety of drawing techniques to map the information gathered through bodily senses to the spaces and environmental surroundings we inhabit. Þóra studied at the Icelandic College of Art and Craft (1979-81) and Det Jyske Kunstakademi in Denmark (1987-91). She received an MA in Cultural Studies and Cultural Management from the University of Iceland (2012) and has studied Philosophy and Art History at the Open University. Þóra’s work has been exhibited locally and internationally since 1991 and can be found in private and public collections in Iceland and abroad.

Erin Honeycutt (b. 1989) studied Environmental Humanities at Sterling College in Vermont and Art History and Theory at the University of Iceland. She is based in Reykjavík and writes for, Culture Trip, and in a variety of collaborations with local artists.