Imagine London before London, when today’s city of office blocks, department stores, shops, restaurants, galleries and palaces was marshland or jungle around the river into which several streams flowed through the roots of the dense impenetrable vegetation which covered the land on which prehistoric animals roamed searching for food.
Carefully lifting and removing the thick grey paving slabs of 21st century London, you are magically transported back to this primeval time. Below you is a mass of intertwined jungle roots through which water is flowing down to the Thames; a sombre monotone world with little sparkle apart from the bubbling water reflecting and breaking the brilliant white moonlight above; a quiet world for contemplation, broken only by the noise of the water gurgling and cascading across the thick roots of the vegetation.
You continue on your journey down some stairs into another space, a chamber in which you look down onto rocks, worn with water which flows and drops down with mini-waterfalls, continually flowing, wearing down the rocks to create new channels for the water to flow along
The Spanish artist Christina Iglesias (b1956) has created “Phreatic Zones”, this window on another world at street level in the Marion Goodman Gallery in Soho, so that the paving runs through into the street outside and beyond into the streets of Soho, suggesting that if someone lifts paving elsewhere they will find the same primeval intertwined roots covered in water flowing across the whole river plain down into the Thames.
“The well, the crack, were always the most literal metaphor for the mysteries of the body and the land, allegories of life, of sex and of death, the earth’s crust as a geological scar on the universe the body and its most intimate mysteries are inscribed on. Body and landscape rush ahead in Christina Iglesias’ work, in new incisions like the lines of a text.” (Marian Goodman Gallery)
Through her sculptures, Iglesias creates immersive environments that engage the viewer in their meaning. In a side gallery are drawings that she uses in developing her work, including of two new projects she is working on with the architects Renzo Piano and Foster and Partners.
On the first floor, in complete contrast, the Canadian photographer Jeff Wall (b 1946) has filled the white walls of the gallery with large images of modern society in the 21st century jungle, an exhibition running in parallel with another one in the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. Wall provides shapshots of our modern world by constructing constructions that reflect a moment in time – real but not real.