Last year, Laure Prouvost was awarded the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and sent on a six-month residency in Italy, where she busied herself distilling the particular atmosphere of the small rural North Italian town of Biella into drawings and film. Now returned to London, she delivers to us the fruits of her labours in a wonderful, sun-soaked installation at the Whitechapel Gallery.
Prouvost captures her new environment by reaching out to all of our senses. Her ten-minute digital projection Swallow will have you imagine the taste of fresh, wet, pulpy fruit and the feeling of its flesh between your fingers; hear the hubbub of the street overlaid with chirruping birdsong; remember the feeling of clear, cold ankle-lapping water on your skin. Gleaming silver-grey fish press against velvety raspberries and a coterie of nymph-like women relax and play in a natural pool. There is a real eroticism to Prouvost’s work but the tone is playful, light and clean. It is a film about seduction, but seduction by fruit, running water and the warmth of the sun.
Prouvost is mindful of how her artistic journey to Italy fits historically, and her installation contains visual references to classical antiquity in allusion to the Grand Tour of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The film is shown within a freestanding construction which fills the main space of the Gallery, a vast pastel panorama collaged with photocopied material, photographic prints and swaths of paint. Its circular form mirrors the open, gasping soft lips that provide the breathy soundscape to Swallow and embraces the viewer with its world of imagery.
Laure Prouvost’s installation at the Whitechapel Gallery offers a welcome refuge from this miserable weather (and the deep feeling of injustice in being forced to trudge through thick snow in late March). Her new immersive installation is a celebration of sensual pleasure which transports you to paradise and nourishes the soul. Oh – and the fresh raspberries which sit on upturned car mirrors around the gallery walls are replenished every day. Eat as many as you like. (Words: Florence Ritter)
On until April 7th. For more info, visit: http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/max-mara-art-prize-for-women-laure-prouvost