Shoufay Derz’s work investigates the limits and possibilities of language, and the ambiguities faced when attempting to visually articulate the unknown. Just as the writer uses words to express the ineffable, her research engages the intersections between language and unknown worlds. The resultant, elegiac artworks are simultaneously a lament on the transience of life, and a celebration of its mystery. Elemental and alchemical, her works harness diverse materials including the life-cycle of silk moths, glass, metals, textiles, eucalyptus, ink and pure indigo pigment.
While the inexpressible, the unknown and loss are universal concepts, Shoufay’s investment in these themes is inextricably bound in personal, intimate relationships. Deeming the recognition of one’s diverse migrant history as necessary process for understanding our present psyche, Shoufay visits Berlin to research heritage, and the sense of unknowns within personal and familial history. Born in Sydney to German and Taiwanese parentage, Shoufay seeks a connection to Berlin through the mythologies of family stories and of her father’s youth lived in Berlin before he emigrated to Australia in 1960.
Her ongoing work with monumental eroded landscapes critiques our contemporary engagement with landscape and geological time. This project commenced on the historic Green island, Taiwan, where the artist captured analogue images of the monumental volcanic and eroded shoreline. Building on her research on memorialization, language and landscape in Germany she will visit the site of ‘Kreidefelsen alf Rügen’ (Chalk cliffs on Rugen), a romantic painting by Caspar David Friedrich to develop new video and photographic works with chalk and ink; the physical materials of written language.
Shoufay’s practice is significantly characterized by a deep engagement with poetry and these new works will explore the role language plays in envisaging the ‘edges of the sublime’. The new material investigations will form part of solo exhibitions at Manly Regional Art Gallery and Museum and Artereal Gallery, Australia in 2018.
From Phasmid studios, Shoufay will continue to Parsons, The New school, New York to as a visiting scholar and further develop the work on the three linked ecologically resonant sites of Germany, Taiwan and United states.