London

Daiga Grantina, Temple #1, 2020, wood, fabric, plastic, ink, 16 1⁄2 × 26 3⁄8 × 2". From the series “Temples,” 2020–.

Daiga Grantina, Temple #1, 2020, wood, fabric, plastic, ink, 16 1⁄2 × 26 3⁄8 × 2". From the series “Temples,” 2020–.

Daiga Grantina

Emalin

Emalin’s new sun-filled space in London’s Shoreditch is a natural home for the wall-based assemblages of Paris-based artist Daiga Grantina. She has long been preooccupied with light and its sculptural qualities, having developed her practice from an interest in experimental filmmaking. Her recent exhibition “Temples” continued these inquiries, with light from two walls of windows providing an ideal setting for her sculptural investigations.

The work here contrasted starkly with Grantina’s solo exhibition at New York’s New Museum in 2020–21, where a riot of color, texture, and sculptural gesture swept across the gallery space. At Emalin, Grantina’s approach to color—central to her ongoing inquiry into material, absorption, and hyper-reflection—was precise and muted. This shift was most apparent in the “Temples” series, 2020–, consisting of seven small wall-based works constructed largely on plywood triangles. Their palette, featuring passages of untreated wood, is dominated by subdued beiges and browns.

The initial impression of restraint soon gave way to a sense of distilled energy. Small instances of intense color permeate the muted planes. A wedge of hot pink pierced through two shards of wood; sunlight bouncing off crumpled, crimson-dappled aluminum foil revealed flashes of brilliant white. Color was scattered across a range of materials, from clear plastic to various fabrics, reflecting or absorbing the sunlight at different moments as you moved through the gallery. Almost maquette-like, each Temple felt like a study of the process through which color, texture, and composition coalesce.

Rather than holding meaning together, Grantina’s constructions actively work to pry it apart. This fraying of signification is most evident at the works’ very edges. The wooden edges are coarse and splintered, such that the uniform geometry of the triangles from which each Temple is constructed begins to unravel. Lines that appeared clean from a distance show themselves to be uneven and jagged, while others betray themselves as simple pencil strokes dividing a diamond shape in two. Shapes that once seemed fixed and foundational reveal an unexpected fluidity. At the edges, where the works met the pristine walls of the gallery, the malleability of each triangle threw the logic of Grantina’s compositions back into question.

Viewing the exhibition at Emalin, I was immersed in a series of ongoing conversations taking place within Grantina’s practice. The “Temples,” when considered in relation to the artist’s previous work, bring new questions to her ongoing study of scale and gesture. The dialogue between color, light, material, and composition creates a unique chromatic experience, one that shifts and evolves with each glance and evinces the artist’s ongoing interest in color theory. Grantina’s “Temples” follow their own interior, associative logic, inviting us into a new, if disorienting, way of thinking. Each assemblage works to collapse meaning into its constituent parts, transforming itself and slipping away from you with every step. These temples are willfully built on shaky ground. The moment you feel you’ve grasped the intricate layout, you stumble across a corridor that leads nowhere, or a small door that opens into a new world.