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untitled (‘Effigy Figures’)

Amanda Ralph has created an installation with three life-sized effigies draped with hundreds of found objects. She is an inveterate collector of bric-a-brac and her studio is a veritable Kunstkammer. Some objects are gathered together into functional storage arrangements, such as brushes and bristles, while others are more specifically arranged in glass cabinets or on shelves that may already be displays, or may later transmute into some other configuration. Every available space is occupied by a proliferation of materials and textures. As in a curiosity shop, the accumulation of these objects is enormously compelling. The absence of any reference to their original functions or past owners allows the viewer to reflect freely on their possible uses and histories. This kind of collecting might be seen as a manifestation of desire itself: a need expressed without any specific object. By ordering and rearranging matter one gains a measure of solace against the longing for final resolution: or against the desire to find and keep the perfect object. In this sense Ralph’s studio is a site of ritual. Her effigies bring to mind West and Central African fetish figures. These fetishes are traditionally associated with healing. Objects are attached to the core figure to direct the power of the spirits to the specific need of the patient. The figures act as a conduit between the spiritual and material worlds. Many of the Congo figures have mirrors in their stomachs: a reference to the great river that separates this world from the other. The shiny surface of the mirror is a metaphor for passage between the two worlds.

Date

24 September – 07 November 1999