Evy Jokhova's 'Weighed down by stones' at Lily Brooke, London

Exhibition: Weighed down by stones

Artist: Evy Jokhova

Gallery: Lily Brooke, London

Dates: 14th November 2018 - 13th January 2019

Website (for images): Exhibition images here

Review by Cara Bray

After moving house recently, I noted the sheer delight experienced in being reunited with favoured trinkets, post-bubble wrap unravel. Having most of my belongings in storage for over a year due to house moves, job changes and a trip across continents, my enthusiasm for a minimalistic approach seemed to outweigh any sentiment. Yet here I was, surrounded by a sea of strewn cardboard boxes with a wave of reassuring familiarity sweeping into my new home.

A person can adapt of course to most given situations. Change, good or bad, is an inevitable and necessary renewal required to ensure the movement of life. The possessions we treasure provide comfort in a world of chaos, objects given meaning and purpose way beyond basic functionality. Who are we without our things? Our belongings help us to understand ourselves just as much as they offer insight for other people. Applying layers of subconscious narrative to material matter is so embedded throughout the human experience, we don’t even question assigning personal meaning to objects that have and will essentially last longer than any of us.

‘Weighed down by stones,’ is a site specific installation by artist Evy Jokhova. Responding directly to its domestic setting, the featured works evoke a romanticised sense of nostalgia. An imagined stove positioned in the centre of the grey room, holds a collection of stones at its highest point, encased in a neon, yellow box. Whilst ceramic pieces mirroring traditional household components, dot themselves between patterned, hand-woven tapestries.

Individually, these items are a combination of decorative and practical. Yet in the context of this home gallery setting, they are open to interpretation, weighed with multiple meanings and collected moments. Textured, totem-like versions of domiciliary features including an iron and a button are displayed like precious antiques, a nod towards the notion of worth being added to ordinary objects over time.

The bright perspex box has an electric glow amidst the charcoal-covered gallery walls and gives the impression of light energy emitting from the structure underneath. Unexpectedly, there are headphones to put on and as I walk round the stove, separate parts of a contemporary composition are played.

I later find out the diverse score has been created in collaboration with composer Oliver Price, building a track from multiple samples of traditional and ritual music including sounds inspired by Masai singers, oriental elements and West African voices, drum beats and bells. The final ensemble is divided into segments across three sensors, which in turn have three different trigger points determined by distance and all activated by movement. Depending on how many people are walking around the stove at any one time, the song starts to build up and develop, embodying a ritualistic and unifying experience.

This ceremonial rotation around the room accompanied by music, is only heightened with the presence of the neon box, acting as a beacon in the middle of this hypnotising dance. The neat, lined edges are similar to those of protective laser beams, guarding museum artefacts from theft. Jokhova coveys our need to claim ownership of the past through preservation and archival systems, even in our own homes, displaying objects as if they were important relics.

As curators to our own lives, the process of collecting items and arranging our immediate environment is almost primal in the way many living creatures build a habitat. Possessions show status and position just as much as they hold emotive value, a gift solidifies feeling and thanks when the words alone aren’t enough.

Powerful attachment to materiality is deeply threaded into individual identity, with family heirlooms, lucky charms and tales of tradition all being kept alive by belief. The stories live on through thoughts, moving through minds without question. The artist offers this scene to viewers without little explanation, instead arousing memories to make sense of the work themselves. A captivating stance at the human navigation of retrospection and personal objectification, Jokhova cleverly summons organic connection with ease and unpredictability.

Cara Bray is a writer and the founder of Boundary, a celebratory gaze at the female artist: www.boundary-online.com