THE SUBLUNARY WORLD
April 5 – May 16, 2017
The Sublunary World brings together the polymorphic figures of Royal Academician Tim Shaw’s Middle World with the Anthropocene skulls and Future Imperfect body-landscapes of Canadian photographer David Ellingsen and the self-portraiture of photographer Meryl McMaster.
Tim Shaw RA has been described by chief art critic Mark Hudson as, ‘one of the great storytellers of British art,’ creating an extraordinary ‘tension between tradition and nowness, between solidity and nightmarish breakdown’. In The Sublunary World, these tension multiply when Middle World figures in bronze and resin – revealing a classical prowess reminiscent of Rodin and a scope that is primal, political and fundamentally ‘other’– meet the surrealist-environmentalism of Ellingsen and the postcolonial self-creations of McMaster.
David Ellingsen is an environmentalist artist and archivist. His Anthropocene series is inspired by the proposed renaming of our current geological epoch, based on global evidence that Earth’s natural systems have been irrevocably altered by human activity. The term ‘anthropocene’ redefines our geological time period as human-influenced. Ellingsen’s transmuted skeletal remains, adrift on a black background, are both a warning and a rendering of hope. His Future Imperfect series realises the same ambiguity: the replication of the naked male body in landscape evokes both new-born and corpse, animal and mineral, flotsam and jetsam, and the intimate and expansive.
Meryl McMaster is a sculptural-photographer-cum-performance artist who pits hybrid inheritances and constructed identities – Native American, European, female – against the immediacy of the lived body in the natural world. Like Ellingsen, she inserts and distorts her own body inside a landscape at once ‘natural’ and ‘betwixt’. She expresses her ‘bi-cultural heritage as a synergistic strength’ rather than ‘a struggle between opposites’. In Avian Wanderer, she rides a bicycle through the planes, while birds fly from her head. In Aphoristic Currents, her head is imprisoned in a massive Victorian ruff, constructed from newspapers which entirely fill the frame. In Brumal Tattoo, she is seen bloodied and exuberant and half-subsumed by a massive drum, referencing both the European use of “field music” to control troops in battle, and the beating of the drum that, in her indigenous tradition represents the beating of the heart.
Works by Shaw, Ellingsen and McMaster meet in the realm of the contemporary-primal and the organic imagination.