The New Art Gallery Walsall
Gallery Square
+44 (0)1922 654400 FAX +44 (0)1922 654401
The Nature of the Beast
dal 25/4/2013 al 29/6/2013
tue-sat 10am-5pm, sun 12-4pm

Segnalato da

Chris Wilkinson

calendario eventi  :: 


The Nature of the Beast

The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall

This exhibition will bring together a diverse range of contemporary artists, who through their work, confront and challenge our complex relationships with the natural world, and in particular, the animal kingdom.

comunicato stampa

Mat Collishaw, Mark Fairnington, Tessa Farmer, Polly Morgan, Olly & Suzi, Patricia Piccinini

This exhibition will bring together a diverse range of contemporary artists, who through their work, confront and challenge our complex relationships with the natural world, and in particular, the animal kingdom.

We eat animals, we use their skins as clothing, we take nourishment from their milk and eggs, we employ them for sport, we keep them as pets. Humankind has long been fascinated by animals, who in turn, have been subjected to research, collection, categorisation, documentation, display and experimentation. Each of the artists within the exhibition creates works which involve an intensive scrutiny of animals and nature as well as a critical engagement with the ways in which we have attempted to understand and control the natural world.

The exhibition seeks to evoke a sense of wonder and critical enquiry. Although moments of humour are present, the overall mood is intended to be dark and thought-provoking.

Tessa Farmer captures the beauty, complexity and cruelty of nature in her sculptures, drawings, films and installations. Her materials are drawn from the natural world and include animal and insect carcasses, plant roots and other found natural materials. Her artistic language is derived from sources such as the fantasy and darkness of fairy tales and the traditional tableaux of stuffed creatures found in museums. Farmer’s creations are frequently populated by demonic fairies, constructed from twigs and insect wings, mercilessly executing acts of mischief and torture on their victims. Her works are sinister yet playful as she delights in the detail, the violence and the humour of her theatrical installations. Farmer will be creating one of largest installations she has yet attempted for The Nature of the Beast. Amongst the key protagonists within her epic installation will be a cobra, crabs and bees.

Polly Morgan is a trained taxidermist, a skill she acquired due to her love of animals and her desire to preserve them. Whilst her earlier works were intimate, surreal and poetic, her most recent works have become more ambitious in scale, complexity and content. She boldly confronts the viewer with the uncompromising cycle of life and the constant exchange of one life for another and seeks to disrupt and challenge our preconceptions of animal life. Harbour (2012) presents the viewer with a dead fox with an octopus apparently squeezing the life out of it, its tentacles winding around and through the fox’s lifeless carcass. Tiny birds hover overhead, apparently seeking nourishment from the tentacles of the octopus. In Hide and Fight (2012), the belly of a dead stag provides sanctuary for nesting bats. A brand new work, commissioned especially for the exhibition, will see a swarm of lovebirds descending upon a human heart like vultures. Lovebirds are regarded as sweet and beguiling, they are often kept in pairs and they fuel our appetite for sentiment. In reality, they can be aggressive birds that have been known to peck their partners to death. Like Tessa Farmer, Morgan has been influenced by the taxidermy found in museums, particularly those constructed into elaborate tableaux. However, the benign nature of these displays has given way to still surreal yet more brutal representations.

Mat Collishaw is an artist who works across a wide range of media. He has never been afraid to confront difficult or challenging subject matter, yet the works he creates are often stunningly beautiful. Insecticides is a photographic series which was begun in 2006 and is still ongoing. Butterflies are caught between two glass slides and then scanned at high resolution before being subject to further digital manipulation. These creatures are literally captured at the moment of death. Their twisted and distorted forms still appear seductive and compelling as we marvel at the detail, the colour and the texture. However, we are also aware of the brutal act that has contained these creatures for our consumption. The images hover between life and death, combining the familiar with the shocking and the alluring with the repulsive. We are reminded of the popular Victorian pursuit of capturing, collecting and classifying butterflies. The insects were pinned through their torsos to a display board, so that they could be studied and admired. Collishaw’s process apes scientific study where organisms are placed between glass plates to enable them to be studied through a microscope.

Artist Mark Fairnington frequently challenges our conceptions of the natural world within his majestic paintings. For this exhibition, he will be showing a series of six life-sized paintings of prize-winning bulls, each with its given name such as Turbo Tommy or Doncombe Aga Khan. This will be the first time all six bull paintings have been shown together. The bulls are painted against a bright white ground, giving them an abstract quality and also presenting them as if they are specimens for observation, documentation and comparison. There are also references to both religious icons and to colour field painting, which seem to bestow a sense of dignity to the animal. Both their scale and the attention to detail evoke a sense of wonder and magnificence. The artist takes hundreds of photographs across the surface of the bulls and uses these to build an impression of the texture and physicality of the animal. Whilst at a distance, the paintings appear strongly naturalistic, as we approach them, the illusionism slips away to reveal a hauntingly beautiful painterly surface. It reveals itself as a construct of a range of fictions, not least man’s interventions regarding the breeding of these animals. Man has consistently attempted to control and challenge nature. We live in an age of genetically modified foods and where the breeding of animals is bound up with market forces and twisted notions of aesthetics.

Australian artist Patricia Piccinini creates extraordinary sculptures, installations, drawings and photographs which explore the increasingly blurred boundaries between nature and technology. Piccinini transports us to a not so distant future age where genetic experimentation and scientific developments have resulted in the creation of other-worldly hybrid creatures. Her sculpted creatures appear scarily convincing, created as they are from fibreglass, silicone, human hair and clothing. Whilst these beings are certainly arresting, Piccinini does not represent them as freaks or monsters. There is a warmth inherent within her work and the creatures often appear fragile and vulnerable. She often presents scenarios where fictional creatures interact with seemingly human beings, nestling intimately against them. The Carrier (2012) presents an ape- or bear-like creature supporting an elderly woman. Their relationship is intentionally ambiguous. Is it one of mutual trust or is the creature enslaved? Sphinx (2012) is a creature apparently created for procreation, its sphinx-like form combining references to both male and female genitalia. Ghost (2012) is suspended from the ceiling, his luscious hair hanging proudly and his tyre-like hat reminding us at once of an ape at play or more disturbingly, an animal suspended within an abattoir. Piccinini reminds us not only of what the future might hold but of our responsibility to all living creatures.

The paintings and drawings of partnership Olly & Suzi are frequently created in the natural environment of the animals they observe. The pair embark on field trips to research animals at first hand. Their subjects could be dangerous, they may move swiftly or be threatened by human presence. They may live in inhospitable environments. Olly & Suzi’s practice involves careful and considered research, meticulous planning and sheer courage and curiosity. To create their works, the artists often need to act quickly, to work together in perfect harmony, sometimes executing a painting or drawing in a matter of seconds. Direct evidence of the animal’s presence is sometimes demonstrated through bite marks or footprints. Olly & Suzi embody the spirit of the intrepid explorer, their compelling works evoking a powerful sense of the experience of being close to an animal in its natural habitat and re-affirming our own, often humbling relationship to nature. For The Nature of the Beast, the pair will be showing an installation of drawings and paintings of Wild Dogs, produced in Tanzania over a four year period of research. Like many of their subjects, these wild dogs are in danger of extinction and the artists, through their practice, seek to share their fascination with these creatures and to raise awareness of their plight.

Olly & Suzi also engage in studio practice. In some of their most recent work, they have focused on insects such as cockroaches, dung beetles and ants. A large painting of cockroaches celebrates the wide variety of species of such a creature. Individual cockroaches are painted initially from careful study, only to give way gradually to flights of fantasy and imagination.

The exhibition as a whole might be seen as the embodiment of a kind of contemporary Wunderkammer – a cabinet of curiosities where we can marvel at the compelling and dynamic creations of these artists and of the wonders of nature. However, the dark side of the exhibition encourages a deeper interrogation of man’s relationship with nature and the ongoing impulse to contain and control the natural cycle.

Our Creatures

As part of the project, artist Mark Fairnington is curating an historic exhibition entitled Our Creatures. This exhibition explores portraits of animals and offers glimpses into the ways in which artworks have described different relationships between human beings and animals. These are images and objects that depict in particular the domestic and local relationships between people and animals and show how these could be pragmatic, eccentric, brutal and loving.
Here are the creatures that have provided friendship, entertainment and sport; they could be made to fight, they could be raced against each other, they could be bred and sold for profit and they could be eaten as food. In these roles they inspired a huge range of human responses: they were and still are a vital part of the human world both emotionally and economically.
This exhibition will include works from Walsall’s collections in addition to loans from Manchester City Art Gallery, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Compton Verney, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery and the Horniman Museum.

A range of events will be organised to accompany the exhibition.

A publication will accompany the exhibition though this will be published slightly later than the opening of the exhibition to allow for photography of the new works.

The New Art Gallery Walsall is run and maintained by Walsall Council and also receives significant financial support from Arts Council England.

For gallery interview opportunities and further information, please contact:
Chris Wilkinson, Marketing Officer on 01922 654416;

The New Art Gallery Walsall
Gallery Square - Walsall WS2 8LG
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sundays 12noon – 4pm. Closed Mondays, and Bank Holidays. Free admission.

Gillian Wearing
dal 16/7/2014 al 11/10/2014

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