At first glance, Anna-Bella Papp’s latest installation at Modern Art could be an architectural display in the local town hall. Her delicate use of clay is almost dental in its approach. A booklet accompanying the exhibit explains that Papp discovered she is to inherit some land in her Romanian home town and she takes us on a walk describing what she could do with it.
The rectangular tablets are displayed on long trestle tables and we could be in a room at the British Museum because these eleven untitled pieces appear timeless. In contrast with the monochromatic artworks, Papp’s written narrative is vibrant and colourful. She describes the ‘white gold’ of an asparagus field, the fecundity of a walnut nursery and the vivid pinkness of a rhubarb field whilst simultaneously giving a narrative on the culture and history of Romania. And this is the genius of the clay medium, we are able to project our own feelings onto the sometimes barely perceptible shapes and forms on each tablet.
The journey is a generational cycle and begins with two sculpture parks, several fields dissected by a freeway, through to an artist residency, retirement homes and a wind farm. The modern form of these machines is jarring with the rest of the work, but their blades appear to scatter the ashes of one cycle and make room for the next. We come from the earth and we go back to the earth, and this is another reason that clay, pulled from the very earth itself, is such a sensitive choice of medium.
Plans for an Unused Land runs at Modern Art Ltd, 50 – 58 Vyner Street, London E2 from 7th March to 13 April 2019. Admission is free.