I think I have made up this word.
I love shadow boxes, tiny hidden drawers, treasure boxes, nooks and crannies. I am drawn to shrines, altars and funerary niches. When I first laid eyes on the hermit caves in the weathered rock walls of the Lower Mustang valley and saw Robert Powell’s paintings of those in the Upper Mustang I got goose bumps.
Collections tell a story about the collector. As a collector you reveal what is sacred or special to you. Or what helps you to make it through the day. I am exploring this for my exhibition next year and I have been allowing my altarniches to evolve.
My research reveals that shrines honour a particular idea of person and are places to meditate or pray (in many different religious traditions.) I see them as places where an arrangement of items helps to focus your thoughts; I don’t see them as objects to be worshipped but as part of a place where you reflect and focus. Have a look at some of of Robyn Gordon’s favourites and she references Australia’s Rosalie Gascoigne.
Altars (I read) are more of a working area. For me, an altar is a place where you remember ideas or practices or people that help you to live better. Or that reminds you about a special experience or place. In my work at the moment, altars have been morphing with hermit caves, shadow boxes and funerary niches (like these at Otuzco. I couldn’t put the photo in but do look at them). Hence…altarniches. And they change so they could just as easily be called alterniches!
It surprised me a bit that others share my fascination and there are quite a few artists loosely using the notion of shrines or altars as a framework for their art. Lisa Vollrath describes them as a self contained expression of a single thought or theme.
Last year in Adelaide I was entranced by the The Followers by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, an installation that was part of the Saatchi Exhibition at the SA Art Gallery.