Split across two exhibition spaces, HEARTACHE constructs a voyeuristic system of surveillance between both galleries. With its focus on a central figure lounging behind the glass storefront of Soft Opening’s Piccadilly Circus space, Agata Ingarden’s sculptural elements oscillate between activities of looking and being watched. This central metal Venus, a reclining form built from stretched steel limbs, scaley oyster shell appendages and hairlike copper wires, resembles a mutated exercise machine, at once sprawling across a chair and functioning as a receptacle itself.
Sprouting through Venus’ centre, several silver branches capped with lumps of caramel drip onto shallow platters, initiating a cyclical system of self-sufficient sexual fertilisation. These sugary swellings drool hungrily onto the body beneath, while Ingarden positions a mirror directly above the structure to reflect Venus’ gaze back onto herself, reinforcing her decidedly public residence. As pools of this saccharine substance collect, the sculpture becomes an embodiment of both absorption and projection, watched by her audience while simultaneously searching into her reflection to see what’s lurking at Herald Street.
Dense with globular caramel forms, mushrooming upwards and outwards, Forest’s pipe-like metal arms extend almost to touch, the crooked boughs of an alluring yet poisonous tree. The scent of Ingarden’s home-cooked caramel, its slimy brown mess beckons any childlike investigation, while it’s tactility still disgusts as her sculptures manoeuvre that well-trodden path between attraction and revulsion. Much like any organism multiplying for survival, Ingarden’s work expands. Whether oyster shells forming through a build-up of layers, salt encrusting into crystalline patterns or caramel oozing unforgivingly onto its surroundings, one element constantly grows onto another, encircling her work within a system of spreading. To remove one dripping limb, would only provoke—even encourage—more to grow in its place.
Accompanying this sticky mass at the Herald Street gallery, Ingarden’s mirrored hearts similarly function as traplike attractions. Formally relating to the crystallised butterflies found in earlier sculptures, these shimmering trophies flutter across the walls when activated by light and movement. Just as butterflies confuse their predators with attractive and distracting wing designs, Ingarden’s glass hearts flirt with their caramel companions, luring their sugary limbs upwards. Struck through the core of each Lightning, rests a godlike bolt, the deconstructed shape of a branch carved from wood. Producing a kind of perverse camouflage, where something pretends to be precisely what it already is, this inclusion of natural matter further perpetuates a tension between organic and industrial material in Ingarden’s work. Often industrial materials acquire organic forms and vice-versa, a convergence chosen to emphasise the fundamental enmeshment of technology and nature.
Where mirrored hearts deflect communication outwards, a large, dark panel hovers confrontationally in each space, soaking up and echoing energy like parenthetical receptacles. Suspended from rootlike pipes that snake downwards to suggest an expansive and unseen network of communication, these materials describe the twisted insides of cities and allude to an underground landscape reinforced by Soft Opening’s subterranean location. Made from sound proofing foam encrusted in crystallised salt, Ingarden’s Tell Me and Shh hungrily absorb their surroundings.