Public Intimacies

Pia Eikaas’ solo exhibition

June 28th - August 4th, 2024

Pia Eikaas is a Norwegian artist. For the past decade, her research has been anchored in walking, documenting bodies of water (rivers, fountains) and manipulating textiles into ghostly sculptures. The artist is interested in bringing her queer gaze upon the city fabric, its architecture and its elements of decoration such as public sculptures. 

In this endeavour, water became a central element in her work. Queerness, especially female queerness, is strongly attached to bodies of water. Distinct examples are the Greek poet Sappho, in the island of Lesbos surrounded by the Aegean Sea, who became the epitome of love and desire between women. Additionally Greek goddess Artemis (Diana is her Roman equivalent) who is constantly depicted in paintings with her like-minded nymphs bathing naked in lakes, she is considered a symbol for the queer community.

Common sense agrees that water carries a feminine quality. Women are wet creatures and paintings often depict them hanging out in lakes and rivers as a metaphor. Water is sensuous, it drips, it pours, it flows, it lubricates. It recalls deep exchanges of liquid fluids, kissing, sex, sweat. Water is dangerous, it embodies a literal experience of immersing oneself, it engulfs, it drowns. Water softness is hard. 

Liquid women are usually portrayed by men in Art History and men dominate architecture and how cities are designed. Public Intimacies is an extract of Pia Eikaas’ wander through cities like Paris, Oslo, Malmø, it is part of her wider research, an extensive travelogue documenting bodies of water and how they relate with flesh and stone (architecture and sculpture) bodies. Eikaas reframes reality with her camera trying to undo patriarchal patterns and ways of engagement. In this reframing process, she hallucinates, writes poetry, serenades her inspirations, pilgrimages and rages against macro narratives.

Public Intimacies
is about surfaces that we see and undercurrent narratives. Eikaas is building a deeply poetic and personal approach. She wrote a pamphlet as a companion piece for the 13 works on view in this exhibition. The booklet is available at the entrance hall of Under the Spell for visitors to borrow, inviting them to have a closer relationship with her thought process. It is a literary experience as well as a visual one.

The analogue photographs are cast in resin, which means these photos are bathed twice, first in chemicals in the dark room and after in the liquid silicon resin mixture that engulfs, hardens and frames them. This frame-transparent sculptures give the photos a watery aspect, blurring the vision and asking the public to come closer, to have a more intimate relationship with the work. It plays with negative and positive spaces and aspects of photographing in film and making a sculpture.

The exhibition is organised in four themes, each one of the gallery’s walls conjures the following:

Bodies of Water; 
Stone Bodies, Architecture; 
Stone Bodies, Sculpture.

Alongside the photos, in the middle of the room, there is a hanging sculpture (Ghost), made of heavy duty netting. The whole exhibition sits in suspension: the way the photos are hanged gives the impression that they are floating away from the wall while (Ghost) sits lightly with pebbles from the River Thames counterbalancing the weight. (Ghost) is a palpable reminder that the presence of people we love lingers beside us even when they are gone. Flying above the exhibition are: Virginia Woolf, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, James Balwin, Eileen Gray, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Agnès Varda, Artemis Orthia, Hans Christian Andersen and Sappho.

Public Intimacies was produced with kind support from the Danish foundation Den Hielmstierne-Rosencroneske Stiftelse.

art space beneath Moonstruck Cafe
153 South Lambeth Road

Monday - Sunday
8am - 4pm