A Novella

15 March - 13 April 2017

Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

A Novella

Sarah Mosca’s new series of work revisits her fascination with epic human pursuits and false histories.

A Novella is comprised of six enigmatic components: three photographs and three metal sculptures. The ambiguous relationship between these components must be approached by the viewer in the same way that poetry is read. Think of a haiku with its spare juxtapositions of images, or T.S.Eliot’s famous notion of the objective correlative “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion. ” The work in A Novella may be read in terms of chapters (or motifs) that each comprise Mosca’s restaging and representation of historical narratives and mythologies in order to unveil ideas and truths that may otherwise be overlooked.


Since her childhood, Sarah Mosca has continually revisited the Abruzzo region in Italy where her family is from. The nearby Apennines Mountains inspired long walks that would become characteristic within Mosca’s practice— durational gestures recorded through photography. Sleepless, a figurative representation of the Marmore Falls in the region, is one such work. The man-made waterfall, built by the ancient Romans, is a monumental attempt to manufacture the sublime. Mosca’s photograph of the site appears ghostly; the remnants of a poignant history that lingers in the present, much like her photograph of the fragmented female statue, Sorrow. Originally from Greece and once mistakenly thought to be Cleopatra, the sleeping figure is a representation of Ariadne (the caretaker of labyrinths) and was appropriated and produced in multiples by the Romans. The multi-cultural history of the figure is a point of enquiry for Mosca, who identifies also with Ariadne’s role as a caretaker of an object that invites a process of mapping puzzling territory.


When Frederic Chopin died in 1849 his body was laid to rest in Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris. His heart, however, was removed before burial upon his request. As the story goes, the heart was smuggled back to Chopin’s native Poland by his sister, concealed under her winter coat in a jar of cognac. In 2016, in a restaging of the poetic gesture first carried out some 160 years ago, Mosca travelled from the resting place of Chopin’s heart in Warsaw, Poland, through Russia to Lake Baikal—the deepest lake in the world. Concelaed in her coat, Mosca carried a single, large-format sheet of film. Over the duration of her travels, the film was gradually exposed and finally rinsed in Lake Baikal. An Empathetic Gesture is the resulting photographic image; an abstract document of her travels; a collapsing of time, action and sentiment. Akin to Mosca’s earlier camera-less photographs, the abstract image encapsulates an otherwise intangible experience and references both historical and present narratives. Mosca further attempts to document the elusive by including an olfactory representation of this journey with Variations III Empathy : a cognac filled tray that emits a beguiling aroma into the gallery space, with an inky surface that mimics the patination of the large photograph and seemingly endless depth of Lake Baikal.


Mosca’s travels throughout Northern Europe were overseen by multiple statues of the female nude—that most ubiquitous of civic decorations: trophy of historical conquest, and evidence of the all-pervasive male gaze. The nude female archer is a particularly prevalent cultural artefact and is referenced by Mosca’s appropriations of the form, which remove the nude females in order to champion the bow and arrow. Variations I Attitude and Variations II Potential reframe and recontextualise the female warrior by exempting the corporeal.

Sarah Mosca lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Previous work includes Gestural Ode 2014, an heroic single image that was an homage to (and re-tracing of) Werner Herzog’s 3 month walk from Munich to Paris in the winter of 1974, and Glacier, which addresses a failed expedition to the North Pole in 1897 by three explorers who perished in the snow, their bodies and photographic documentation subsequently encased for decades in the frozen wilderness. Recent exhibitions include NGA Contemporary Collection at the National Gallery of Australia; The Alchemists Australian Centre for Photography Sydney; Care Interstate Projects, New York; NSW Emerging Visual Arts Fellowship, Artspace, Sydney. A Novella is Sarah Mosca’s second solo exhibition at Sarah Cottier Gallery.


© Copyright Sarah Mosca 2016