Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Butterfly - Catrin Morgan and Rachel Pedder-Smith

My newest curatorial endeavor is now available for a view if you find yourself in Fulham (again, woe betide - I apologise for the location of the gallery but beggars can't be choosers, can they?). There will be a full-blown website to accompany my new painting show in September (and document all the past exhibitions) - until then the blogosphere will have to suffice.

Here is a couple of photos courtesy of my tight designer Francisco Laranjo, his glorious ouvré and accompanying design criticism can be found here. Additionally, here is the 'introductory text' for the exhibition I wrote for the A4 FOH handout a month or so ago and the two artist's statements.


What we have come to understand as botanical illustration, and additionally collections of texts or objects that illustrate a specific literary or scientific theme, can be found rooted in the medieval Latin ‘florilegium’ (singular) or ‘florilegia’ (plural). This translates to modern English as ‘a gathering of flowers’. While the term was originally used to describe the way specific passages of scholarly and classical texts were selected and compiled to illustrate a specific theme, after the medieval period the word was used to refer to any collection or compilation of objects, in both scientific and literary contexts.

This exhibition brings the history of florilegia into the context of the art gallery, presenting two contemporary florilegium: on the one hand, a collection of watercolour illustrations of insect specimens (a form of botanic study rooted in art practice), and on the other hand, a collection of deconstructed texts with their pages meticulously cut into and fanned-out like the wings of a butterfly. This exhibition seeks to update the definition of florilegia, asking the visitor to consider the idea of collecting, or collections, both as scientific pursuits necessary for the accurate documentation of our natural world, and as a form of contemporary art practice that intends to give a sense of visual beauty to the inexpressive rigour and systematisation normally associated with purely scientific study. This exhibition both respects and questions botanical science, but above all adds something arguably necessary to it; something it might otherwise lack - a sense of consideration, elegance and craft through artistry.

Presentation and Further Information:

The placement of the artworks reflects the flight of a group of butterflies. The objects climb the gallery walls, fluttering around before settling on an available surface. The two artists’ works are mixed; blended to avoid the formality of hanging in set and separated groups. Additionally, the title of the exhibition, displayed on the wall in vinyl lettering, suggests the form and shape of a butterfly’s wings. In this respect, an element of the design process, normally restricted to the catalogue, is incorporated directly into the display of the artworks.

Many of the insects in Rachel Pedder-Smith’s paintings can be found in the gardens of Fulham Palace. Her work in this exhibition features both original watercolour works and photographic reproductions.

We wish to give special thanks to Daunt Bookshop for supplying the books.

Artist's Statement/Catrin Morgan

“I set myself problems and then create sets of rules determining the means by which I am allowed to solve them. In the case of the Butterfly Library, the problem was that I wanted to find a way of illustrating the shared moment that three particular works of fiction (The Satanic Verses, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Everything is Illuminated) entered when they all used the word butterfly. I had the idea that the word could act as a doorway between the texts. I thought of the problem in 2005, but didn't begin to come up with a solution until two years later whilst studying at the RCA. After I had decided that the solution would definitely involve pins, other rules began to emerge. I now have a framework of rules inside which the work is growing. Although I do use rules and systems to help me create work, I'm not dogmatic; sometimes rules must be broken or amended and in fact extending the project for this exhibition has led to the creation of new rules necessary to allow the project to continue.”

Artist's Statement/Rachel Pedder-Smith

“My painting is as representative as possible. I use watercolour paints and very small brushes. For the butterfly paintings I looked at the surface through a magnifying glass in order to try and capture the full structure of the wings. Most of my paintings are produced at exactly life size and I measure as many dimensions of the object as possible. Before I start painting I produce a faint line drawing as a guide. I don’t produce any preparation studies. I use a style called ‘dry brush technique’, where not much water is mixed with the paint.”