Natura Morta

ILENIA, London
19/01/24 till 09/03/24



TREE: So, ‘natura morta’, as in ‘still life’ in Italian? And it’s a group show


FOX: Uh huh, exactly! Painting, photography, sculpture, all mixed up together; a killer line-up.


TREE: But what does the tradition of still life in art mean in 2024, with the year just waking up and rubbing its eyes?


FOX: That is the question! Still life painting has always been about trickery, capturing nature in hyperreal lushness and wonder, the cornucopia mid-decay—


TREE: —The stained glass on a butterfly’s wing.


FOX: So what Natura Morta proposes is that tradition taken to a surreal, freaky, oddly haunting new zone. ‘Nature’ but distorted into something strange and dreamy.


TREE: Examples, please! mehr


FOX: OK, Matt Copson’s sculpture offers us the psychedelic and unsettling prospect of undead sculpture, a still life of some Watership Down-on-bad-shrooms scene depicting a furry organ skewered on a barbed wire fence, the whole thing in kaleidoscope colours which slowly transform, the whole thing trippily breathing and darkly glowing.


TREE: Whoa, mutating! And the colours in Megan Rooney’s paintings are so loud, too.


FOX: Yeah, and the paint is so thick and rough. Like being thrown into a forest on fire. Can you see the hint of a flower there, melting, pink?


TREE: Big mood.


FOX: But Aaron Angell’s ceramic works, roughly hewn and weathered, look organic even if they aren’t, exactly, as if nature has feasted on them, worn them away.


TREE: They look like they’ve washed ashore on a haunted beach.


FOX: They look like a collab between the sculpture and time itself, germs, raw sea breeze, ripe with decay.


TREE: And the stone in Calvin Marcus’ sculpture looks fleshy…


FOX: Yup, a strange head sticks out its tongue: fleshy and yet not, sinister, spooky.


TREE: But Joanna Piotrowska’s thing isn’t like that.


FOX: Nope, it’s very funereal, a sculptural installation of photographs of flowers in goth monochrome.


TREE: Chilly.


FOX: Gorgeous as a marble grave.


TREE: And then the Birgit Jürgenssen drawings, I don’t know where I am, I get goosebumps on my bark—


FOX: —They’re green, too, a sickly medical green, probably toxic in large doses, the mossy fur breeding mossy fur and the mask hung on the table like an abandoned face.


TREE: Unnatural.


FOX: Only if you think dreams or nightmares are unnatural and not part of how we relate to our weird environment, the strangeness of the world.


TREE: The Javier Barrios drawings are also freaking me out: like, what is that?


FOX: They’re so sexy! Some monkey creature grinning, going nuts while the foliage growing out of his head riots like flames— still life from a twisted brain.


TREE: Like, do you think any of this has to do with our vexed and apocalyptic relationship to nature right now?


FOX: Aw, possibly maybe. But a lot of other stuff, too. I wouldn’t want to wreck the mystery, and they’re very mysterious works.


–  Charlie Fox

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