Culture / Art Republik

Exhibition at Galerie Karsten Greve: ‘Perpetually at the Centre’ by Claire Morgan

Claire Morgan contemplates mortality in her new exhibition at Galerie Karsten Greve

Nov 21, 2017 | By Ilyda Chua

Claire Morgan, ‘Life Support’, 2017. Image courtesy Claire Morgan Studio.

To the casual observer, Claire Morgan’s sculptures may be little more than beautiful re-creations of the natural world — delicately detailed depictions of flora and fauna in muted, pastel tones. But a closer look at her work reveals a reality that is far darker.

Using taxidermied animals as the centrepiece of her suspended installations, Morgan explores the complex relationship between human beings and the natural world. In ‘Life Support’, Morgan suspends two birds alongside a fragile world made of fragments of waste plastic. By surrounding the organic with the inorganic, the artist draws a direct connection between human actions and the damage done to the natural world that is impossible to ignore.

In other works, she meticulously attaches nylon thread to diaphanous materials such as dandelion seeds or dead flies, hanging them from the ceiling within transparent glass showcases. For example, in one of her works, dandelion seeds are strung up on nylon and displayed alongside a taxidermied waxwing bird. By striving to create permanence in the transient, she reflects the innate human obsession with preservation and immobility.

Claire Morgan, ‘To an End’, 2017. Image courtesy Claire Morgan Studio.

Morgan explains that her works are heavily influenced by events worldwide such as the ongoing refugee crisis and ecological disaster, adding that she has always been fascinated by humanity and mortality.

However, the artist’s main inspiration is rooted in her personal response. Tracing connections through everything from religion and mythology to contemporary humanitarian crises, Morgan seeks to examine the cyclic nature of birth, death and regeneration in her works. Using heavy symbolism in her materials, she uses her works to respond to modern-day themes such as consumerism and desensitisation. “It’s probably worth mentioning that the tricky position of my own work within this cycle is not lost on me,” she adds.

Aside from the taxidermy, which Morgan practices with her own hands, the artist’s process is both meticulous and nearly ritualistic. In addition to the animals themselves, she also uses the residue of the taxidermy process as works in themselves. Elements such as bones and bodily fluid are the essence of her  signature “blood drawings”, which combine the residues of the process with ordinary mediums such as pencil and watercolour.

In ‘Eternal Return’, she uses acrylic paint and pencil alongside taxidermy residue to create a piece that is gruesome in both its appearance and ambiguity. It is impossible, as a viewer, to look at the drawing and not wonder which parts of it are mere paint, and which are not.

Claire Morgan, ‘Eternal Return’, 2017. Image courtesy David Lawson.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are works that are so vibrant and  lifelike, the viewer nearly forgets about their constituents. In ‘The Vanity of Supposing Significance’, two peafowls are perched on the ground, unmoving but impossibly vibrant, with a colourful explosion of polythene above them. The display is dramatic and resplendent, and it is difficult to remember the undertones of physicality and violence in the display.

Claire Morgan, ‘The Vanity of Supposing Significance’, 2017. Image courtesy David Lawson.

Familiar yet surreal, Morgan’s works are an unflinching exposition of what makes us human. Through the static, silent beauty of her installations, she delves deep into the everyday issues that affect us, whether social, political or environmental, challenging viewers with her thought-provoking symbolism and metaphors.

Featuring four new suspended installations, her latest exhibition, ‘Perpetually at the Centre’, will show at Galerie Karsten Greve until 23 December.

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ilyda chua

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