Artificial Bionomics


OPENING RECEPTION Thursday, June 18. 7pm
Exhibition June 18 – August 8
@Medalta’s Yuill Family Gallery

Isn’t it interesting how humans will plow down a forest in order to erect a shopping mall adorned with fake plastic plants? I am fascinated by these manufactured ecologies and fabricated landscapes. I question the increased absence of nature in our increasingly urban culture. The industrial, civilized world has become so disconnected from nature that it appears strange to me, like an absurd alien universe. My work resembles sort of a post apocalyptic plant/animal hybrid that emerged as a result of our peculiar relationship with the natural world. A distinctly familiar attraction exists; I am captivated by the visual properties of nature, the notion of the organic, and the appearance of fluid, open forms. Though it may appear organic and inspired by nature, my work is manufactured with human made materials.

I am captivated by consumer objects found for sale in stores such as Walmart, Winners, JYSK, IKEA, and Target that reference nature. Nature becomes a manufactured ecology and these objects emphasize our paradoxical relationship with nature: we want to be close to nature, but these objects allow this connection only in a superficial, manufactured way. I find that the stylization of plants is appearing in everything from interior design to website, furniture, and clothing design. Humans continue to appropriate and manufacture nature. I am particularly interested in the way that nature has been commodified as consumable imagery, and how the repetition of this imagery has become kitsch.

This common usage of botanical subjects in abstract and stylized form to decorate the surfaces dates back to the Arts and Crafts period where metalwork, ceramic, textiles, glass, and furniture were decorated with ornament found in nature. In response to John Ruskin’s ideas these artists returned to the observation of nature in their work, and the phenomenon of appropriating nature, which started in the 19th century and continues into the present day. However, over time, architects, designers, and artists have started to look less to nature as a source, and more to a synthetic nature. During the early nineteenth century, designers were not interested in capturing a naturalistic representation of a tendril from a plant, rather they were searching for a form that spoke to a universal plant. Victorian architects used the practice of conventionalization as a stylization of the leaf ornament, so asymmetry in the veins of a leaf would be abandoned in favour of symmetrical cutouts. This reduction or stylization of the plant form in order to confirm to anthropocentric systems of order is precisely the type of appropriation in which I am interested.

For this new body of work, I used mostly extruded ceramic forms to produce multiples to create a sort of facsimile of nature. Each repeated element is unique and flawed, yet somehow self-similar. I use abstraction loosely: these sculptures do not accurately depict real world animals or plants, however, they merely make associations with creatures, specifically underwater ones. The objects stay true to a sort of manufactured ecology: these sculptures are clearly made with techniques that are a product of culture, not nature.

In the piece, “Urban Urchins”, I found consumer objects that imitate natural forms and slip cast them to produce multiples, transforming them into a type of kitsch that is twice removed from nature: a facsimile of a facsimile of nature. In this case, I found a replica of a sea urchin and cast it twenty five times. Through the process of slip casting, the forms become mutated and distorted from their original form. This is not unlike the process of evolution in nature, which requires self-replicating entities with tiny errors to sample other configurations. New genes can be generated from an ancestral gene when a duplicate copy mutates and acquires a new function. The generation of new genes can also involve small parts of several genes being duplicated, with these fragments then recombining to form new combinations with new functions.

In “Urban Urchins”, the mutations of slip casting mimic the tiny “copy errors” in the process of evolution, and a whole new organism is created. The organism that is created in my work is an artificial object that imitates nature and its processes.

I am not attempting to convey a solution to the multitude of problems that our environment faces, but rather to call attention to this curious cultural trend in hopes that a greater awareness will emerge on an individual level. Through reiterating natural forms; deconstructing and reassembling organic order, I am addressing a collective estrangement from our origins.

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