Candida Powell-Williams

Candida Powell-Williams
Candida Powell-Williams, Crystalis, 2023. Sarvisalo, Finland. Photo: Mimosa Elo
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In Sarvisalo, Finand, an existing root-store - romantically known as ‘The Apple Cellar’ - has been transformed by British artist Candida Powell-Williams into an immersive site of discovery and symbolism. In this specially commissioned installation - featuring archetypes from the artist’s own established arcana of disembodied human limbs, shells, cephalopods, and reptiles - the artist has created a space for initiation, contemplation, and magic.

At the center of the colourfully tiled underground room is a pool of water, encircled by outstretched human hands proffering ice-apples, this pool brings animation and transition to the multi-sensory environment. A fountain of shells erupts from between purple legs and a tall geometric tulipiere holds fresh cut flowers and burning candles, bringing the elements fire, water and ice into what could otherwise be a lifeless crypt. All this is presided over by a chain limbed octopus chandelier, whose wax drips into the melting ice below, and a mirror-bodied doubled Venus abstracted from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486).

This, a contemporary reimagining of an ancient Grotto, follows on from earlier shrine, tarot and grotto works by the artist. It is occupied by a company of handmade ceramic and Jesmonite players, their personalities gleaned from historical references derived by the artist during her deep research into the sites where performance and culture collide. Follies, and grottos in particular, were spiritual places where the visitors would come to experience an altered state; a moment on the “other side”.

Grottos are sites of initiation, symbolic of a primordial source and a symbolic boundary between the visible and invisible world. The 18th century English folly grottoes were often below ground, made from shells or volcanic tufa and decorated with enamel forms like petrified amphibians to give the impression of penetrating the earth’s crust or reaching oceanic depths. There were usually guardians at the entrance and a fountain at the centre dedicated to Venus or Diana, considered the source of wisdom. Wisdom takes another symbolic form - the apple - which links to the site at Sarvisalo.” Candida Powell-Williams, June 2023

is a composition ready for gameplay, a space for reflection on the images, myths and stories that have the been created and that bind or divide humanity across cultures. Working in a myriad of materials, including performance, sound and animation, as well as the sculpture that we see here, Powell-Williams is one of the foremost artists of her generation, creating ambitious, genre defying installations. Powell-Williams explores the symbolic significance of apples in Finnish and other cultures. Through a deconstructed narrative that intertwines symbols, historical references, and the concept of de-evolution, Crystalis, becomes a site of mystical rituals and transformative experiences, blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.