Sian Bowen and Nova Zembla: Suspending the Ephemeral

Sian Bowen, Jan de Hond, Jan-Philipp Fruehsorge

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This special edition contextualizes the new body of drawings, artist books and video works made by Sian Bowen over a two-year period working as Guest Artist in Drawing at Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The Nova Zembla collection of prints, which were carried as merchandise on Willem Barents’ expedition seeking a northern route to China in 1596, had lain frozen, transformed to papier-mâché blocks, in the Arctic for nearly three centuries. Reconstructed from hundreds of fragments by the Rijksmuseum, the prints provided opportunities for Bowen to develop work which explores the materiality of drawing and the ephemeral nature of museum objects on paper. Through artworks, accompanying essays, documentary photographs, video stills and texts by the artist, this book traces Bowen’s own ‘journey’ through the project, emphasizing the tactilequalities of her artworks which at the same time employ light, transparency, perforation, reflection and fragility, and consolidate the often fugitive nature of the materials used in their making. The artist realized the project working with Rijksmuseum’s Paper Conservation Studio to employ 16th century methods and materials to new ends, and also with archaeologists, curators, historians, papermakers, printmakers and filmmakers. In addition she retraced part of the route of original expedition and filmed this journey through the fragmented icepack as it was reflected in a replica ‘Claude glass’.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDerby
PublisherCornerhouse Publications
Number of pages152
ISBN (Print)9780956902405
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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