Polly Morgan’s Endless Plains at All Visual Arts
British artist Polly Morgan’s new exhibition Endless Plains opened 8th June 2012, her largest installations to date, at All Visual Arts, London.
Beyond the unassuming entrance to the warehouse – visitor are greeted by a sea of darkness, with pools of light illuminating each of the sculptural works. These pieces, entitled Hide and Fight, Harbour, The Fall, and Archipelago share the common themes of infection and the sustenance of new life from death. Polly Morgan has created an alluring – at times tender – show inspired by the dual influences of her visit to the Serengeti (where the title comes from) and her own personal trauma.
Morgan is clearly an artist who favours aestheticism over concept. There’s an awful lot of criticism of aesthetic work in the art world, but it’s quite refreshing when an artist is so unapologetic about it.
The highlight of the show is undoubtedly Hide and Fight, which has interestingly been described by the artist as her own body. The simplicity of the frozen stag lying prone on its side, hollowed out to form a cavern in which bats roost. There is a sense of peacefulness to it that the others somehow miss due to their movement.
Harbour certainly has something alluring to it, though this may just be the alien attraction of tentacles. One can also find something mythological about this, the kraken-like tentacles coming from within the body of a fox and writhing in the air as if appearing from the deep to drag down an unsuspecting fishing boat. The other pieces include a fallen tree trunk with a clutch of cast piglets suckling at its dripping sap and a solitary piglet that has become host to tumour-like mushrooms, which burst from it’s belly. In both these pieces the piglets have been cast with extraordinary detail even managing to retain their downy hair.
There is a constant tension between movement and stillness throughout the show that is once again revisited in the drawings. Here Morgan takes the ashes of cremated birds to render their own nests; savage strokes forming fragile shapes. I’m not sure if the birds slumped over the tops of the frames are strictly necessary but do provide an extra flourish of detail.
This is a show that will definitely work best in quiet surroundings, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of a packed private view. I hope that the minor issues I have with it will be lessened if not removed altogether by a repeat visit during quieter, more contemplative times.
Endless Plains runs until 31st July , Tuesday to Saturday 10pm-6pm at All Visual Arts, 2 Omega Place, London N1 9DR.