Amanda Schiff

HERMAION: Happy Accident, Lucky Find

03 Jul 2015 - 28 Aug 2015
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Image ©Jane Wildgoose 2015. All Rights Reserved


Like a modern-day mudlark, the artist, writer and filmmaker Amanda Schiff spends her days trawling for the lost and found. Using abandoned objects, images and texts, she creates assemblages that evoke ambiguous and unsettling narratives.

Schiff's new exhibition, 'HERMAION', explores her fascination with things that have survived 'by chance or miracle'. The exhibition, installed within a domestic setting in an 18th century Huguenot silk weaver's house, takes its name from the gift of Hermes, the trickster god of the Greeks. Hermaion is the lucky find, the happy accident, the unexpected windfall. It describes both Schiff's imaginative process in making the work and the surprising results.

Using orphaned objects, whose makers are almost certainly long dead and whose purpose is outworn or forgotten, Schiff conjures up fictional narratives, encapsulating them within one-of-a-kind boxes.

These beguiling assemblages are constructed with a filmmaker's eye for detail and a writer's love of tall tales. A cast of characters emerges. Are they witty and playful - or sinister? The viewer, it becomes clear, is the missing element. They must call up their imagination to complete the picture and resurrect the stories. Jane Wildgoose's haunting and beautiful photographs offer additional layers of meaning in conversation with the cabinets of curiosities.

A major influence on Schiff's work is the American Surrealist Joseph Cornell, whose 'shadow boxes' are the subject of a new Royal Academy exhibition in London. The shape-shifting Dadaist and Surrealist artists, the fragmentary process of Walter Benjamin's writing, and Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's films, also inform her multimedia practice.

Accompanying the exhibition is the artist's book of fictional narratives with photographs of the cabinets by artist and photographer Jane Wildgoose.

With HERMAION Schiff and Wildgoose return to Eleven Spitalfields Gallery following the 2009 exhibition WE ARE SHADOWS: Metamorphosis, Curiosities, Dark Tales

Amanda Schiff is an artist, writer and lecturer in screenwriting. Her first solo exhibition in 2009 was at Eleven Spitalfields Gallery, her second in 2010 was a 4-month installation (Pandora's Box) at the Grant Museum of Zoology. She has been commissioned to write short fiction for international fine art photography magazine HOTSHOE, and in 2001 was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger award. Her long film-industry career has included stints at Columbia Pictures, the National Film Development Fund, Goldcrest and the Samuel Goldwyn Company, and in partnership with producer Barbara Broccoli, she set up and ran Astoria Pictures, where they produced Crime of the Century. In 2004 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is currently writing a novel and a screenplay.

Jane Wildgoose is an artist, writer and Keeper of her own collection, The Wildgoose Memorial Library, which is dedicated to memory and remembrance. She works to commission with museums and collections in the UK and USA and has exhibited at the Soane Museum in London and Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut USA. Her exhibition 'Beyond All Price', commissioned by Waddesdon Manor (Rothschild Collections), is on view at Waddesdon Manor until 25th October 2015. She is currently completing a practice-based PhD at Kingston University in which she is investigating the collection and interpretation of human skulls and hair in late-nineteenth-century London.