exhibition curated by James Putnam
in collaboration with the American Academy Rome
and with the support of Locanda Cairoli – Rome
Unosunove is pleased to present Naturalia, an exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs, 16mm film and a video works by Mat Collishaw, Ellen Gallagher and Jamie Shovlin. The title insinspired by the Latin term used to classify the wonders of nature collected and displayed in the 17th century cabinets of curiosity, also called Wunderkammern. Using an organizational principle
that differentiated between natural history specimens or naturalia and man-made artifacts, artificialia, these collections even included fake mermaids and the bones of mythical dragons and unicorns. Taking quite different approaches to the theme of naturalia the three artists explore its sinister, sensual and fantastical aspects.
Mat Collishaw’s images of flowers and insects evoke the wondrous and exotic beauty of nature but belie its darker side. His series of Infectious Flowers become seamlessly merged with medical images of diseased flesh while his epic photographs of insects crushed behind glass capture that precise moment of their lives’ extinction. He also explores an art historical pagan theme where a female nude cavorts with an animal in an idealized panoramic landscape. The apparent naturalism of the photographed model is contrasted with artificiality of the painted background and yet the transition is relatively indiscernible.
Jamie Shovlin has created a series of delicately drawn vignette style portraits of Internet porn-stars whose pseudonyms reveal the feminine tendency towards natural names (i.e. Cherry Rose) and the masculine towards man-made elements (i.e. Jack Hammer).
He has also produced a series of archive box works that investigate the dioramas in the American Museum of Natural History – a bizarre attempt to create a visually dramatic illusion of nature using taxidermied animals against a scenic painted background.
Ellen Gallagher has a fascination for natural history and since 2001 has made an ongoing series of drawings called Watery Ecstatic that feature a mythical undersea world, which she refers to as Drexciya. These extraordinary marine creatures include exotic sea worms and the trailing tentacles of strange jellyfish. Although she calls them drawings they are remarkably intricate paintings
where details are literally carved into the thick watercolor paper and enhanced by sensitive pencil-lines and subtle washes. This imagery also appears in her evocative 16mm film, made in collaboration with Edgar Cleijne, where she uses a variety of animation techniques that include working directly on the filmstrip by scratching into its emulsion layer.
All three artists have produced substantial new works especially for this Rome exhibition, which has been conceived by guest British curator, James Putnam.
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