Alexandra Domart on the Cavities series by Olatz Irigarai

“Space is the breath of art.”

This quote by Frank Lloyd Wright inspired the artist Olatz Irigarai who comes from the Basque region in northern Spain on the Atlantic coast.

Alexandra Domart, FOM Docent for STPI

A cavity is a space within a solid object, such as a tooth or a mountain. Northern coastal Spain has some of the oldest cave art in the world, dating back 30,000 to 20,000 years ago. These “mountain” cavities were a refuge as well as a space in between the material and the spiritual worlds. These caves also hold some of the oldest prints made by man: handprints and stencils of hands. The artist has visited them often.

When living in Spain, Olatz made screenprints, stencils embedded in a screen. She used these transparent films to make the screens and then her prints. They exist to direct the light to certain areas of the screen. These films are physical objects but they let the light through showing the space behind them. Normally these are archived, they are just a tool in between the design and the final print.

Somehow, Olatz was not done. She took them with her when moving here to Singapore.

She perforated them, cut them, reassembled them. She was influenced by the lessons of Chinese ink painting she followed in Singapore: a key principal is “liu bai”, or leaving a white space. The equivalent of a cavity in a painting, it is a space within the painting rather than a solid object. These white spaces are essential to let the “qi“, the Taoist life energy, to circulate in the artwork. They often are used to symbolize water bodies or mists and clouds. It is also a space for our imagination to flow.

With this series, Olatz encourages us to use the spaces in our busy schedules to take a deep breath, seek refuge, pause and recharge. She points to us that these cavities and voids are also rich with opportunity, a gentle reminder to enjoy the moments in between all our goals and activities.

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