Critics’ Picks

View of “Liths,” 2023. Photo: Andy Keate.

View of “Liths,” 2023. Photo: Andy Keate.


Tanoa Sasraku

97 & 99 Hoxton Street
February 17–May 20, 2023

Each of us is “an archaeological site,” Lucy Sante argued in her 1998 memoir, The Factory of Facts. “What passes for roots is actually a matter of sediment, of accretion, of chance and juxtaposition.” This notion of the self as strata came to mind while visiting Tanoa Sasraku’s exhibition “Liths,” wherein the British-Ghanaian artist uses geological imagery to examine her personal ties to the United Kingdom’s landscape.

Five monumental freestanding cases display what at first glance appear to be stone blocks (all works Lith, 2022). Two are arranged as a trench to walk through; the others tower over viewers like the Bronze Age monuments after which they are named. While they are exhibited on their own, the “Liths” are best understood in relation to a smaller series called “Terratypes,” 2022. Process carries meaning in Sasraku’s work. The “Terratypes” were made in and from the landscape. The artist foraged pigments from personally significant places across the British Isles and rubbed them onto stacks of blank newsprint that she had collated, stitched together, and embossed with gridlike patterns. She then soaked the paper in bays, bogs, or rivers or made strategic lacerations in the finished surface. Each Lith derives from the torn leftovers of this process. Sasraku digitally scanned and enlarged selected fragments and then printed them on Japanese paper, so that the final images take on the dimensions and visual texture of a slab of stone.

Compared to the “Terratypes,” the “Liths” are cooler, more withholding. Sasraku thinks of them as portraits. If the “Terratypes” enact an excavation, revealing the kind of sedimentation Sante alluded to, the “Liths” are all surface, scanned, skin-deep fragments standing in for a layered whole.