The blurb that I had read ahead of visiting the exhibition space was as follows:
In recent work Fitzjohn has used imagery of wilderness and woodland as a metaphor for both a lost ideal (Elysium) and a hoped for future, in order to explore his concerns regarding climate issues and economic imperialism. Fimbulwinter has extended and developed these themes.
This installation has evolved over five years. While its essence remains intact its physical state, like the changing landscape, has morphed with every site-specific experience. Initially conceived as a response to landscape generally, since his relocation to Wales Fitzjohn has become more particularly concerned with the mythic and timeless character of the Welsh landscape. This experience has reinforced his environmental concerns, but also awakened a deeper feeling for the ancient rhythms of nature that remind us of the fluid and changeable state of our reality and the cyclical order of destruction and rebirth embedded in our landscape.
The title Fimbulwinter is taken from Norse mythology, a period of three successive winters without any intervening summer, an environmental disaster that is the prelude to Ragnarok, the end of the world. While the world may not be ending, it is changing and Fitzjohn’s paper-cut is a response to this; his imagining of the end of things as they are, the mutability and adaptability of nature and the hope embedded in possible futures.
I was all set to get myself a feel for the ancient rhythms of life and to get all worked up about climate change and economic imperialism.
Unfortunately all I encountered was paper-cut trees.
Just paper-cut trees.
Cute paper cut trees.
Fitzjohn’s paper-cut may be his response to the Norse mythological idea of Fimbulwinter, and those mythical tales might well be relatable to ideas about climate change and the end of the world, but unfortunately this paper-cut doesn’t communicate anything whatsoever about these themes.
It’s just paper-cut trees.
I understand that each presentation of the work sees the structure of this paper-cut woodland change to fill a different space and in doing so this might be read as a reflection of our changing world, but you would have to be a Fimbulwinter groupie, following the work from one venue to the next to appreciate this. Instead what is presented at Cardiff MADE is a static installation of aesthetically pleasing paper-cut trees
Ideas about climate change, economic imperialism, environmental disasters, or the hope embedded in possible futures might have inspired Fitzjohn in creating this work but to describe the work as being about these things requires a real stretch of the imagination.
It’s all well and good telling us what themes this work addresses, but if the work itself doesn’t communicate these ideas then it’s a failure in this regard. Isn’t it?
I struggled somewhat trying to figure out what the work was really all about but then I started to wonder if it was actually about the artist himself or aspects thereof…
The installation is not immersive; it is in fact clumps of white paper thin silhouettes of trees that we’re excluded from, forced to navigate our way around them peering through gaps in the entangled branches. We’re required only to observe, not interact with, the work from the outside, peering in, trying to catch a glimpse at what, if anything, might be at the heart of this faux woodland.
I know a few people that could be described by such metaphors, and so it wouldn’t be too much of a leap to wonder whether this is in fact a self-portrait masquerading as something more pretentious.
All said, I actually rather enjoyed walking around the installation. It’s really quite beautiful.
PS: The coffee at Cardiff MADE is not bad.