In Still Life, imagination and empirical observation unite in contemplation of life’s interconnectedness. Exquisite drawings and models from the University of Melbourne’s Herbarium collection represent artistic and scientific traditions in which natural organisms are depicted in isolation from their environment. These teaching tools contrast with contemporary artworks by eleven artists that celebrate the complexities of nature, emphasising interdependence and shifting states of being.
Focusing on symbiotic relationships and interspecies entanglements, these artworks consider the underground mycelial networks that connect forests, the giant termite mounds that provide a home for mutualistic communities, and the microorganisms that inhabit human bodies and are integral to our existence.
Many of the artworks in Still Life take as their starting point representational strategies from the natural sciences, such as botanical illustration, macro photography, specimen collection and field recordings. In the artists’ hands these methodologies move beyond the observable world into a realm of fantasy, symbolism and abstraction.
Suggesting that understandings of the natural environment are constrained by the limitations of human perception, including a mistaken assumption about our centrality to the natural order, the artists in Still Life propose that sustainable co-existence requires new patterns of seeing, thinking and living.
Featuring: Mikala Dwyer, Nicholas Mangan, Angelica Mesiti, Clare Milledge, Vera Möller, James Morrison, Isadora Vaughan, Jahnne Pasco-White, Adele Wilkes, Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley.
Curated by Jacqueline Doughty
Still Life will be on view upstairs at Buxton Contemporary from Friday 3 June 2022, and is exhibited alongside Susan Jacobs: The Ants are in the Idiom.