The Crypt Gallery in Euston Road is a fitting setting for artist Irma Irsara’s new multimedia exhibition ‘Earth is Calling’.
The bare stone walls are a striking home for textile pieces comprised of natural materials and microfibre plastics, and give the photography and film works an atmospheric home. In one section of the exhibition, a slideshow of plastic fibres magnified to an extreme degree project otherworldly silhouettes on darkened walls, both beautiful and alien.
Irsara, who hails from the Dolomite mountain range in the Italian Alps, was led on a journey of discovery in the process of the exhibition. Her preoccupation with the environment began in childhood, where skiing to school was part of her daily routine. Her research for Earth is Calling took her across the globe, collecting samples to be tested for microplastics. All of them showed to have traces of tiny fibres; the stuffing of a couch cushion, an invisible strand of fishing line, fluff from a polyester jumper. She also visited the stoic mountains she once called home. There’s a cave there, she tells me, iced over for 12 months of the year. She took a sample from the frozen walls of the grotto, and sure enough, they came back positive.
The results from this research were “shocking” to Irsara. Plastic is everywhere, transported by rain and seas. In this latest project, she shows the stark contrast between these man-made materials and the nature it often ends up in. ‘Pleather’, heated and warped, looks abstract on a piece comprised of synthetic materials, barely reminiscent of the real thing.
“A lot of microfibre plastics are imitation,” says the artist, omnisciently aware of how such goods are marketed and sold positively. “They want to imitate something that is organic and real.”
Furthering the stunning curation of the exhibition is the lighting from John Sinden, and the accompanying soundtrack by Johnathan Lambert. The soundscape artist’s work propels engaging visuals into something ethereal and haunting. In the atmosphere Lambert has created, the striking time-lapse works presented of the artist’s ice sculptures melting become a contemporary dance filled with the power of natural forces.