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James Freeman Gallery, London
2–25 November 2023
‘Unreal’ is an exhibition of contemporary photography exploring its uses beyond mere factual documentation, presenting the work of three women artists for whom photography is a tool for imaginative creation: Emily Allchurch, Liane Lang, and Suzanne Moxhay. Emily Allchurch’s artworks reconstruct historical artworks as collages of thousands of her own photographs. The works in this exhibition come from two different series. One is her latest Tower of Babel, reinterpreting an 1836 painting by the architectural illustrator Joseph Gandy, that visualised the tower as a layering of historical styles: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, Persian, South Asian and Chinese. Emily updates this with elements of Art Deco, Neo-Classicism, Palladianism, Greek revivalism, Chinoiserie and Postmodernism photographed around England, retaining the original spirit of Gandy’s creation but with references from our contemporary moment. An accompanying pair of works form part of her Arts Council-funded project ‘Mirrored cities’ which combines imagery from either end of what was the Silk Road, drawing symmetries between ‘West’ and ‘East’. The compositions for Mirrored Cities I & II are inspired by Italo Calvino’s Valdrada in his novel ‘Invisible Cities’, where two cities reflect each other above and below the water. Emily’s mirrored architectural scenes of Venice, and its counterparts in China’s Suzhou and Fenghuang, display the common features of globalisation and mass tourism that bind both ends of the Renaissance trade route. Liane Lang’s work revisits her series Glorious Oblivion of statues to historic women, using both humour and melancholy to undermine the cool distance and neutral gaze of the white marble monuments. She uses figures she has moulded herself to create a new, more intimate experience of the austere statue. In this exhibition two monochrome works on opalescent paper delve into the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. A phantom hand delicately touches a marble Sappho frozen in contemplation; Penelope sits amidst an array of sirens in the museum store room, the artist proposing an unexpected sisterhood. The large work here, Spectres at the Old Bailey, invents a visual memory of the statue of Queen Mary witnessing the 1973 IRA bomb attack. Hand-painted shards of glass scatter like an imaginary cloud, puncturing the austerity of the building with an image inspired by empathetic projection. The shard is also a feature in Stone Statue (Sarah Siddons) an image of the glamorous actress’s Marylebone effigy printed onto a rough fragment of quarried stone, symbolic of the making and unmaking of memory and legacy. Suzanne Moxhay’s images present poetic scenes where nature has overrun civilisation. Highly detailed and beautifully lit, each is composed of myriad diverse photographic sources that Suzanne collages to develop her seductive compositions. Within her works there are always hints of its unreality: a mismatched sense of scale, full-grown trees sitting in living room corners, doors ill-fitted to their frames, or interiors overgrown with external flora. And yet, despite it all, the decadence of Suzanne’s scenes makes her viewers complicit in the conceit. This exhibition presents her most ambitious work to date: a deeply intricate woodland scene, burgeoning with palms, fronds, and tree trunks with an air of dense humidity. Leaves fall and moths flutter, suggesting a moment frozen in time that is impossibly lush and eerily quiet. This sense of the uncanny permeates her smaller works, with a dilapidated hallway leading onto an ever expanding forest and a cabin glowing in the dead of night by a lake. Overgrown and uncertain, there is a psychological resonance in her cryptic yet beautiful world: of neglected corners of the mind unvisited, left to the mercy of the elements.
Wilder Gallery, London
3 – 21 December 2022
Suzanne Moxhay works with photographic processes to create intricate montages by combining imagery from different sources. Fragments of found images are seamlessly spliced with the artist’s own photographs to build illusory representations of abandoned or empty interior spaces, often tinged with a sense of lost decadence and decay. Many of the works in the exhibition speak to Moxhay’s career-long interest in the uncanny and in the relationship between interior and exterior spaces. Her works present contained domestic spaces that are under threat of being invaded from the outside; evoking a classic trope in many horror and thriller films, a sense of unease is created by the notion of a safe space being menaced by unknown or unpredictable external forces. Moxhay’s work offers a painterly perspective on photographic material, pushing the boundaries of the medium and challenging the truthfulness of photographic representation. She frequently experiments with reprocessing images through methods such as printing, hand-painting, and rescanning. The exhibition includes a new series of photopolymer etchings, in which Moxhay’s montages undergo a light-sensitive etching process, converting the disparate elements of the image into a cohesive visual language. Through this technique, objects and spaces from multiple sources are brought within the same aesthetic plane and internal logic. The exhibition also features an animated work, made in collaboration with US artist Jessica Gomula-Kruzic. Presented in a handmade box, the animation is viewed through a peephole, drawing viewers into a miniature world within a world. The intricate and meticulous construction of Moxhay’s invented spaces draws inspiration from film production, where environments are created in order to reflect the story’s atmosphere and the interior states of the characters. Concerned with a sense of unresolved narrative potential, each mise-en-scène is charged with an unsettling feeling of suspense frozen in time and space. Many of Moxhay’s spaces sit uneasily between inhabited and abandoned; are the people who once lived in these houses long dead or have they merely stepped out for a moment? Flying creatures emerge as alternative protagonists; their fleeting motions lend a solidity and authenticity to the invented spaces by emphasising the stillness of the three-dimensional spaces. Birds and butterflies are liminal creatures of change and uncertainty. Their ability to traverse the elements and their fleeting beauty give them a quality of memento mori, suggesting the transition between life and death. They are captivating but also potentially frightening, especially when they enter domestic spaces and metamorphose from familiar parts of nature to uncanny messengers from the outside. Moxhay is also interested in how common features of domestic spaces become unfamiliar or unexpectedly emotive when placed under scrutiny. In these psychologically charged spaces, the curtains around a window or a set of patio doors, for example, take on a theatrical quality of framing the outside world. In this context, the garden is revealed to be a controlled and artificial space, pointing to the levels of mediation that affect how we experience the more-than-human world. These works speak to the history of representations of “nature”, from the art historical landscape painting tradition to the many devices we use to control nature and parcel it up into manageable chunks.In Moxhay’s interiors, however, nature is often on the cusp of taking over, breaking free of human constraints. Trees spring up in abandoned rooms; waterlilies colonise puddles created by leaking roofs; birds and butterflies flit through broken window panes. The works speak to the almost horrifying indifference of nonhumans towards human lives and concerns; it is perhaps this apathy that we are trying to contain or oppress through our habits of gardening, landscaping, and representing nature. Anna Souter
Modilità: No Humans
Andrea Nuovo Gallery, Naples, Italy
1 October – 7 January 2021
When the imaginative vision of the future is overturned on the very short-term project, the psychic anguish of the human of the third millennium takes over the rhetoric of Beauty. More than saving the world it becomes everted landscape of the emptiness of the soul by sedimenting anguished layers of the prediction of the catastrophe, which will lead the planet to the No Humans modality. Paradoxically, in a world dominated by the web, humans lose the ability to think in collective terms by isolating themselves in individual thought while waiting for the point of no return. The sublimation of desire no longer manifests itself in terms of attraction or as indulgence of the erotic drive, it becomes rather destructive, violent, aggressive and a prisoner (see the pandemic problem, for example) of rules pre-coded by others. And the ethical conscience becomes aggression towards the adversary. In the basic misunderstanding that is created in such a social condition, the environment, the problem of protecting our ecosystem becomes "other than us" when, on the contrary, it is an integral part of our very existence; just as the child survives thanks to the maternal amniotic sac, in the same way the human being exists as a symbiont of the entire system that surrounds him. As Jean Baudrillard argued, already a long time ago: " The worst is not that we are overwhelmed by the waste of industrial and urban concentration but that we ourselves are transformed into residues". The human species, aiming for virtual (technical) immortality is losing its particular immunity ”. In all of this we are all schizophrenic consumers of goods, of status symbols paid for at the high price of environmental destruction; wild liberalism feeds on aesthetics, a sick fetish from the redundant need to create new simulacra of power. We should stop being holograms of ourselves sacrificed on the altar of a science that is only falsely positive and which provides for the reversible vision of the cause/effect dichotomy. What sense does visual art still have in all this? Does it still have the power to reveal the deception or is it rather the formal flattening of the neoliberal aesthetic vision on the hybrid body? That is, to go back to the French philosopher's perfect crime: if reality is accelerated by technology, which pushes it towards its most extreme and paradoxical consequences, then thought must be faster and more paradoxical than reality itself. Said in his own words: "You have to trap reality, you have to be faster than it". But art today (at least in its part of the system) is nothing but the visual and formal extension of the immanent financial system; it takes its forms by producing the fetish commodity (often a cover for money laundering and the creation of slush funds) the baroque daughter of the so-called "perfect capitalism" (of which Karl Marx speaks in the third book of Capital) or that which produces money without generating or goods or culture but only self-reproducing simulacra. In the world subjected to the obscure theosophy of money (that is, an end in itself) of this form of globalized society, the artist can still be a detonator of an event that breaks this geometry of the planet's teratological axiom or, at least, as Gerhard Richter maintains , to console? The answer is yes, provided that it lives and is produced outside the strict rules of the system. They are the so-called "islands of freedom" in which it is still possible to be radical with respect to the immanent cultural-economic hegemony. Art rewrites its signs, its linguistic structures often in an unconscious but no less powerful way. In this exhibition we have bent the linguistic and sign code, precisely, making it functional to the project which, like a Gestalt, goes beyond the sum of the individual works. The project that contains, in the Chinese boxes of the event one inside the other, the narration, the visual perceptive aesthetic function and the very conceptuality of the works; how a system structured like the onion coding of the Tor program (to use the ubiquitous cybernetic language) leaves the viewer free to descend into the installation depths of the exhibition itself until perceiving, by itself, the terrible condition that puts planet Earth in : No Humans . And so the paradigmatic transgression of Helene Pavlopoulou 's accumulation of memories represents the actualization of the myth of Plato's Cave; the metaphor of the shadows of reality reinterprets our memory by flattening it on the wall of the virtual. As on the walls of Plato's cave, Pavlopoulou's work is only the representation of reality; through an inverse chromatism the Greek artist superimposes the real on the virtual, the material on the impalpable. The goddess Mnemosyne returns to re-veil her face erasing, perhaps forever, the common axiom of memory as if to mean that there is no memory if there is no one to remember. But if it is true that all that is solid is destined to vanish in the air, then the human body, the face, the gaze and the thought itself are transformed into evanescent ghosts as in the work of Federica Limongelli . A subtraction, through her electronic painting, of the accumulation of reality which is the true presupposition for the disappearance of the human. Human who crosses, in his ghostly substance, the places where the dying species has built its magnificence; it is the body that invades the landscape and not the other way around. And then physical belonging is supplanted by the multimedia complexity of electronic worlds through which we no longer have identities, we are simply and completely extracorporeal and extraterritorial. Thus Güler Ates builds his colorful eidolas , simulacra of an existence now lost in the poignant response of an exit from the world. In the mystique of contemporary vision, the very existence of a message and of a code that represents it implies the very existence of an encoder who is none other than the Turkish artist herself. Güler Ates, starting from architecture, ends up being a builder of worlds. And it is from this exit from the spaces that the pacified world in the natural environment of Suzanne Moxhay is born , where the traces of the human are slowly erased by the process of substitution. The same reference to an Arcadian painting by the English artist identifies the paradoxical necessity that in order to abolish the slavery of the human from teratological impulses it is mandatory to erase humanity itself. And if it is true that human logic, in its continual shift towards technological alterities, has taken on a destructive attitude towards what is memory and the natural environment, it can only presuppose a definitive reconciliation through its absence.This is the prerequisite for guaranteeing the survival of the planet where the gigantism of forms becomes a surreal journey towards the definitive re-appropriation of the self as occurs in the works of Barbara Nati . The unreal excess of natural forms that bury the few remaining traces under the overabundance of forms; it is the fulfillment of the disappearance theory where the human does not disappear under an excess of electronic realities but, rather, towards an augmented reality of the same nature. The media landscape of Nati's images is transformed into the Heideggerian concept of inhabiting the world where the traces and no longer the presence represent the simulacra of its passage. This formal synthesis is, then, the premise for Jean Michel Bihorel 's project ; in his work the natural elements do not die, rather they swell to excess, displacing the visual relationships between the art of reality and the extension that digital allows. What appears, in the end, is a possible super reality in which the great programmer ends up being Nature itself. In Bihorel's work all media end up being functional to a surreal project in which the homocentric conception ends up buried under the broken frame of thought as a defined form. Nature which, in the extreme limit, ends up transforming itself into a mutant tangle of abstract elements as in the work of Simon Reilly . The form transcends itself, becomes entangled completely deleting the formal premise of the human, the cycle becomes complete, the structure is pulverized and in doing so it creates the conditions for a new palingenesis daughter of an absolute entropy of the planet. The bodily function is lost, almost dissolving, within the natural element precisely through the colors that recall it. And the immateriality of vision is the central element of dissolution. Reilly becomes the necessary premise, then, for the work of Patrick Jacobs ; the American artist's installations are openings to the worlds of otherness, where the aesthetic form and formal structure of the landscape are transformed into aesthetic research with a metaphysical value. Being at the center of this new aesthetic function means identifying the place, understood as a landscape of otherness, as the detonator of artistic happenings, making it relational to the mutation of vision. Real and more than real which, through the entropy of the natural system, become the search for Beauty, that aesthetic function which we, imprisoned on the surface of the planet, are almost always physically denied but which is possible in the world of dreams. Because, after all, we are and we remaindreamers . In the condition of conscious hybridization of nature, therefore, humans choose the presumption of being creators themselves, manipulating the earth and the beings that live there; this degenerative madness is symbolically represented in the mule, the animal that man creates and which, without human intervention, will not survive as it cannot, in fact, reproduce. The mule then becomes the metaphor of our own existence, relegating to humans the choice of keeping the planet alive or destroying it completely. An assumption of responsibility before nature itself definitively rejects what the American writer Philip Dick defined: "Fragile, bipedal, sentient and parasitic on planet Earth" . Massimo Sgroi
3 August – 29 September 2019
Immersed within this artistic formation are layers upon layers, running between reality and imagination, personal and historical context, objectivity and subjectivity, spatial and temporal stages. Photography has transformed from being simply a copy of nature into an artistic form, representing a creator’s aesthetic, cultural message and, frequently, social agenda. STRATA is this year’s pop-up exhibition project by PhotoBangkok, to reflect on contemporary social structure. In the current complex socio-political climate, nothing is as it seems. In this project, 7 artists, 5 exhibitions represent a wide variety of photographic genres and techniques, each with multifaceted elements and discourse, a diffusion of information and negotiation. Representing the European stratum, Luis del Amo, Madrid in Black and White, gives us a glimpse into Madrid’s glamorous past through his black and white 35mm and medium format films from his time as a fashion photographer. Decades later, in Expanse, Suzanne Moxhay, while inspired by the tradition of matte painting techniques, opts for digital tools to manipulate and construct a staged environment that negotiates the boundary between outside and inside, allowing an expansion of spatial mentality and physicality. I love Thailand presents the work of two talented emerging Thai artists, Naraphat Sakarthornsap and Charinthorn Rachurutchata, who show Thai society through their fresh, yet critical mindsets. Rachurutchata, with her traditional upbringing, examines the phrase ‘I love you Thailand’, a common phrase Thai students are asked to repeat mindlessly at school. While Sakarthornsap emphasizes the importance of what (or whom) is discarded and rejected by society. Seen through the simplicity of beautiful floral arrangements in an ordinarily places, his work is a reflection of a society’s impact upon an individual. “What a wonderful world?” shows works by Tetsuya Kusu and John Hulme, presenting socioeconomic strata of the marginal in two countries, the United States and Thailand. With a sense of humor, Kusu’s work not only captures lives in the States, but is also an artist’s self-documentation and re-examination. While Hulme offers an honest account of the restricted life of migrant workers, documenting their professional and family life, revealing dignity and endurance under considerable hardship. Ekkarat Punyatara shows another side of Bangkok in Interlude, a metropolis presented through its emptiness, with only a few remaining traces of actions and activities. He depicts the city at a time of rest, an interval in ongoing lives, encompassing those whose existence takes place within this urban space. These artists present works that reflect on the complexity and layers of life from diverse realms and circumstances as a means of self-representation and open conversation. Nothing is neutral; all are politics of thought and action. What we see in front of us and what we ascertain, can be challenging and ambiguous.
James Freeman Gallery, London
29 August – 20 September 2019
We are pleased to present ‘Conservatory’, an exhibition of new works by the British artist Suzanne Moxhay, exploring the boundaries between interior and landscape, artifice and nature, the real and the imagined, through a collection of digital collages and photopolymers. Suzanne Moxhay’s images present dilapidated structures seemingly overcome by nature over the years – only these places do not exist. The works are photo collages, whereby the artist layers her own photography with images of antique paintings and landscapes to create subtly inconsistent but nonetheless convincing scenes. Rooms and corridors are stitched together from diverse source photographs, populated with incongrouous plants while the walls dissolve into Romantic painted vistas. It is a method of working that fabricates an emotion as much as a scene, channeling a sense of nostalgia with a magical air to suggest how we project such narratives and ideals into Romantic imagery. The works in this exhibition draw inspiration from a short story by Thomas Pynchon called ‘Entropy’, in which a character creates a jungle-like micro climate in his apartment, only to have it exposed to the outside world at its end. In Suzanne’s works, the artificial hothouse is created by overlaying palms with faded landscapes and intermingling jungle vines with electic cables, until the line between real and manufactured becomes increasingly hard to discern. The exhibition also features a new series of photopolymer etchings: intaglio monochromes that have the air of a plate from an old book, as if creating a secondary literary history for her invented world. There will also be an artist book from Suzanne as part of ‘Conservatory’, as a means of further exploring how invented world can come to life in print. At every level, there is an ebb and flow between the ‘real’ and the imagined, and how what can seem to be natural is so often an invention, or even a willing deceit.
Kallmann-Museum, Ismaning, Germany
23 February – 5 May 2019
The exhibition Models of Nature in Contemporary Photography explores the boundaries between construct and reality, between the artificial and the natural, confronting us as viewers with the issues of manipulation, imitation, and our own perceptions. The spectrum of works on view ranges from images of so-called “pure nature” to the unnatural, including nature in the urban realm and as a backdrop for historical events. The aestheticization of nature in art and its reformatting into an artistic composition are at the centre of the artistic approaches of the works. Even though these images deal with illusions, that is mimetic deceptions, they are no less real than replicated reality. The model invites us to a parallel world where time seems to stand still—a world that we investigate, question, and wonder at, a place where we can always get lost, especially since it offers an alternate experience to the loud, fast, and often overwhelming world around us.
Open Contemporary, London
9–22 March 2018
Open Space Contemporary presents Adventitious Encounters, a group exhibition with 20 internationally acclaimed, emerging and established contemporary artists. Co-curated by Huma Kabakcı and Anna Skladmann, the exhibition is held on the sky-roof of the historic Whiteleys Shopping Centre, a space rarely open to the public. Adventitious Encounters explores the interwoven processes of human production and consumption in response to nature as an object of desire; a nature of which we are an intrinsic part. Yet ‘nature’ is no longer pristine; we are now living through the Anthropocene, a time when human activity has begun contributing to failing ecosystems, rising sea-levels and climatic change. In turn, these negative effects are driving mass human migration; as a species, we are forced to re-think historical assumptions and the ways in which we register these dramatic changes, which are not only affecting the whole of humanity, but all existing planetary life. If we examine the transition of Whiteleys from a Victorian department store to bygone shopping centre and onward to future development, we find a multiple-use space in which new possibilities and realisations can crystallise. With respect to the building’s heritage, Adventitious Encounters invites the audience to experience multi-sensory stimulation, akin to William Whiteleys’s unrealised botanical vision. In its original design, the uppermost floor of the department store was organised around a dominant octagonal glass dome, in part inspired by the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851. This dome was envisaged to be at the centre of an elegant formal “Italian” garden, flanked by water ponds and reminiscent of classical orangeries; a distillation of nature in miniature. The exhibition proposes to map out our dependence on nature through an extended sensory means that art and technology provide. Today, technology allows us to perceive hidden environmental process. Consequently, humanity is able to soberly survey the situation, which notably marks the gap between the role of the human being as an observing subject and as an observed object. As a result, we now have vast power at our disposal to explore this relationship and recreate nature according to our own desires. Scents, colours, textures and emotions elicited through art allow for the aesthetic reinterpretation of nature, consequently revealing our own entanglement with it. Adventitious Encounters looks into the novel production of sensual desire and the re-combination of material reality. Adventitious Encounters will feature a collaborative installation with Conservatory Archives and a programme of performances and events, including a partnership with Block Universe. Andrew Osborne, who is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths and currently works at the Royal College of Art, has contributed to the catalogue essay Anthropsensory: The New Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, which forms an integral part of the exhibition material.
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