Text by Lucy Moss.
This is the era of the hippy scientific, where preoccupation with mother nature is backed up by scientific knowledge, not just liberal ideology. In an age when ecological concern presides, a renewed and heightened sense of anxiety about the state of natural earth often appears in contemporary art. Images of Eden are replaced by hellish natural disasters and barren, uninhabitable purgatories; now is the time to repent for our sins against nature, as the rapture, it seems, is already upon us. But, not so in this exhibition. Eulogy brings arts affair with nature right back to love, respect and nature as a muse not as a site of abuse. With the exhibits gracing the ground instead of the walls, the result is very much like a wild flower walk. Every artist is nestled next to each one another, like tulips and daisies sharing the same bed. The floor plan reads like an geographical map or a landscape gardeners vision and the viewer plays the botanist, wondering amidst these creative blooms; matching species to genus, artist to artwork.
While the tone to this exhibition is a delicate, positive one, I can’t help wondering what shades the title, Eulogy, casts upon the works. Are we seeing the last hurrah for nature as a muse of beauty? Is this a lamentation? Or perhaps, just as botanical life must rise and fall by the season, this is a song of acceptance over the cycle of life and death. In the greater seasons of the universe, winter too must come.
The variation in style and substance within the works mirrors that found in nature. Some artists here hint at the long lineage of this subject, whether with still life’s or textile designs. Others concern themselves with nature in contemporary life. Tim Croft plays creator with a computer generated blossom, while Susi Bellamy, uses the life cycle as cypher for fashion, an art as fickle as the weather. As a sprig of sweet-pea used to mean, ‘you have my thanks’ or a lily, ‘chaste purity’, now, it is our attire that supposedly makes the statement, although quite what that statement is might be is open to debate. Zara Worth reflects that women’s voiceless statement is one of a forced etiquette, commanding purity, beauty and most of all silence, like the floral designs her model’s bodies inhabit . Sally Madge‘s delicate skeletons are also adorned with flowers, although in a fashion that wears its seasonal cycles in a more hopeful way. Death, far from final, feeds new life, therefor breeding its own inherent paradox. Simon Morris also shares a keen sense for such absurdities, parodying the ultimate nature, reality. Meaning and meaningless creating one another in an unending ouroboros, that traces the path of the natural world; just as autumn eats winter eats spring.
It seems it’s not only the artists that collaborate. Charles Danby and Rob Smith‘s mineral musings invoke, for me Anthony Gormley’s words, that ‘we have consciousness while they [rocks] have eternity‘ yet here, they seem to embody both, as artist and earth join forces. Some works here would no doubt pass me by if they were hanging alone on a solitary wall, yet hidden among the fallen leaves of this exhibition they become complimentary to one-another and breathe new life into themselves. This collaborative curation is the true success of this exhibition, here, like every good garden, beautiful things lurk just around the next corner.
Lucy Moss is an artist and writer currently studying in Newcastle.