Julia McInerney Draws Literature into Sculpture

Recently announced as the winner of SALA’s major award for her series of three sculptures, Leaves, Julia McInerney’s work is heavily influenced by literature, especially that of Swiss writer Robert Walser.

“Literature is the major reference point in my work, from studying the lives of writers and their work, to looking into the materiality of books and scripts,” McInerney says. “The question of translation between the literary to the sculptural is deeply embedded in my practice.”

McInerney’s winning work, Leaves, is influenced by 20th Century Swiss writer Robert Walser, in particular his work Microscripts, a series of manuscripts that display microscopic writing. He developed this writing to overcome cramp that was psychosomatic in nature and debilitated his ability to write. He miniaturised the words so they were as small as one- or two-millimetres high and appeared incredibly cramped on the page.

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Julia McInerney, The situation had obliged her to travel.

“I found these scripts visually very compelling, Walser would often cram the words into one corner of the page, making the negative space as charged as the areas of text. It was here that I began thinking about a sculptural form that related to scripts and the tablet form, the ancient use of stone and clay tablets that to me had a very sculptural presence.

“The microscripts initially provided a template for these new works. I was forming depressions in the tablets for the squid ink that corresponded to the areas of text in the scripts. The thinking behind it is quite circuitous, the tablets could be thought of as ink wells, or a form that precedes writing.”

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Julia McInerney, Archipelago

For McInerney, it’s the expansive and private space of literature that is the attraction against the static nature of sculpture. “I’m interested in where these two coexist, where they draw breath from each other that supports one and the same thing in the end,” she says.

McInerney’s new body of work, Archipelago, showing this month at GAG Projects, also uses Walser’s writing as the central point of departure. The title for the exhibition, Archipelago is taken from one of the works in the show. McInerney describes it as a “winter work” due to the fact it can only hold its shape in winter because it’s made of coconut oil which melts at 24 degrees.

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Julia McInerney, Her barely visible gestures

The work is a cast of one-part of a two-part mould which is called a sinker mould. The mould is used it to make small anchors that are tied to the end of the line. “This piece is re-presenting a tool, but casting it from a material that cannot be held in the hand, it would melt under any contact with the body,” she says.

Julia McInerney: Archipelago
GAG Projects
Wednesday, August 2 to Sunday, August 27
juliamcinerney.com

Header image: Julia McInerney, Softly, softly walked (detail.)