[Review] Natalie Yiaxi at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space, Nicosia

Cypriot artist Natalie Yiaxi has been working with words for years, as seen in her various publishing projects —and more recently, through her ongoing series of self-published “a book a month” booklets titled Bast Fooks. Treating “words as materials”, Yiaxi composes short texts that usually relate to the everyday and seek to unearth poetry out of the mundane and the pedestrian. Along these lines but featuring mostly material objects is her first ever solo show, “Solid Plans”, now on display at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space in Nicosia.

This gathering of funny little sculptures looks like a cheerful parade of squeaking, adorable everyday distractions.

Using plaster as her main material, Yiaxi created dozens of small objects, most of which are gathered together in the form of an installation (Homework, 2016); each of these objects was made by embedding everyday objects into the plaster, creating surreal and often comical versions of familiar things usually found in the home. Combined with the work’s title, this gathering of funny little sculptures looks like a cheerful parade of squeaking, adorable everyday distractions, a visualisation of the many things we have to revert our attention from in order to get things done during the day. (At least that’s what my mind looks like by lunchtime.)

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The everyday element is also evident elsewhere in the exhibition, as in for example the large print of a supermarket receipt (Receipt Poetry #1: Plan for a Book, 2016), for which Yiaxi went to the nearby convenience store and bought four different kinds of menstrual pads; the names of the products on the receipt formed a kind of chance-poem that reads: ALWAYS NIGHT / ALWAYS ULTRA NORMAL / EVERYDAY SUPER / CAREFREE ORIGINAL. “Always Ultra Normal” is also repeated in three painted ceramics for another piece with the same name (2016), thus acting as a motto for the whole show. Other works continue Yiaxi’s practice in word art and poetry, like the tiny tablet screen playing a slide show of constantly rotating nouns, the English alphabet and question marks (Ask Quora, 2016) or a handwritten pastiche of plagiarised quotes on a piece of red paper (Plagiarism #2, 2016).

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In the press release, Yiaxi quotes Kathy Acker, the American feminist and experimental writer, as follows:

“Imagine that you are in a foreign country. Since you are going to be in this place for some time, you are trying to learn the language. At the point of commencing to learn the new language, just before having started to understand anything, you begin forgetting your own. Within strangeness, you find yourself without a language.”

This feeling of in-between (of languages; identities; the material and the immaterial) is also evident in “Solid Plans”, not only in the tongue-in-cheek irony seen in many of the works, but also in the fragility and melancholy behind all the humour: words will never be objects, and language will never be a place. This fluidity of meaning contradicts the rigidity of plaster and the “words written in stone” around the exhibition, and a poet like Yiaxi knows that words are elusive. What she does then is materialise writing, and take us into a realm where words become objects and are lined up like sculptural sentences — like reified texts waiting to be read through touch, space, movement, time. 

The exhibition Solid Plans continues at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space (2b Kissamou, Palouriotissa, Nicosia 1040, Cyprus) through 12 December 2016. 

Useful Links:
Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space official website
Natalie Yiaxi official website
“Solid Plans” exhibition press release (pdf)
Bast Fooks project website

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Images
1. Natalie Yiaxi, Homework (2016). Installation view at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space. Photo by Stelios Kallinikou.
2. Installation view of the exhibition “Solid Plans” by Natalie Yiaxi at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space. Photo by Kiriakos Spirou.
3. Installation view of the exhibition “Solid Plans” by Natalie Yiaxi at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space. Photo by Stelios Kallinikou.

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