Brigita Ozolins has spent a lifetime surrounded by words. The former librarian is now known for her sculptural installations that utilise text in a variety of formats— from printed books to binary code—as both a physical material and a conceptual concern.
Ozolins has a deep respect for language, but she is also aware that it is a paradoxical code; one that can conceal as much as it reveals. “Language isn’t actually a mirror of reality,” she says. “It is an interface.”
The Hobart-based artist often highlights the cryptic nature of language by obfuscating the texts she uses in her work through creating patterns, layering, or using reflective surfaces—and she deploys all of these strategies in her new body of work, Oracle. As she says, “The oracle speaks in riddles and doesn’t say things directly. Meaning is something that is often hidden. The wisdom that’s contained in words is not always easy. You have to work for it.”
In Oracle, Ozolins presents words of wisdom lifted from ancient tomes, including the Bible and the I-Ching, or taken from philosophical thinkers such as Friedrich Leibniz and George Orwell. These texts shimmer in mirrored letters across birch plywood panels, flutter on bold coloured fabric banners, and are animated to a rhythmic soundtrack in a video projection.
The cheerful colours of the banners are a new departure for Ozolins; a direct response to making work in the middle of a global pandemic. “Most of my work has always gone to the dark side; dark colours and dark atmospheres,” she explains. “And while this work is about the uncertainty and precarity of the future, at the same time I wanted to do something positive: something lighter and brighter.” Oracle, Ozolins hopes, may point to a potential future of positive change.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.