Julia Lohmann (above) samples seaweed in Iceland (2009)
Exhibition: Julia Lohmann – Laminarium, Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University, London, April 21 – June 19 2010
Iceland's glacial allure may be on the wane this week, but Julia Lohmann still has tangible, mushroom-shaped memories of her last trip to the ash-spouting Arctic.
Last September she spent a weekend touring obscure outskirts of the country, admiring ancient churches, forgotten farms and sheep runs, drawing conclusions on the ecology of the land along the way.
Research Cabinet, Stanley Picker Gallery (2009). Photo: ellielaycock.com
Among her souvenirs were a stack of giant 'shrooms found on rugged countryside, which she duly used to make schnitzels – "we were pretty sure they were edible, but we couldn't ask anyone to double-check because there is no Icelandic tradition of gathering mushrooms," she reported, eventually persuading a companion to try one. "I am pleased to say he is alive and well."
Before their mortal consumption, the fungal haul had decorated Lohmann's kitchen table in a typical display of animalistic creativity from an artist who has enveloped glowing lights with the insides of cows and made a ceiling from the preserved stomachs of 50 sheep.
She's fascinated by the emptiness of carcasses and the existential void between animals being killed and their ultimate use as meat.
Kelp Constructs. Photo: julialohmann.co.uk
For her year-long fellowship with the Stanley Picker Gallery, she spent a year deducing the colour and strength of seaweed as a natural alternative to man-made plastics and endangered woods, investigating the prospect of kelp farming as a lucrative substitute for communities dependent on collapsing fish stocks.
"I am exploring the potential of kelp as a design material," she explained, describing her Kelp Constructs, where lengths of dark green kelp are stretched into square formations on poles. Sampled from across the world, they present seaweed as an "abundant yet under-exploited natural material", managing to look rustically pretty in the process.
Open Tuesday-Friday 12pm-6pm (4pm Monday). Julia Lohmann will be in-residence at the Gallery on April 29, May 10 and June 17 2010, including workshop activities with students, staff and the local community.