The butterfly counts not months but moments
16th - 21st September 2014
The room is full of fennels, portraits of fennels, depicted at various stages in their short life, standing vertically, one per canvas, each canvas the same 25 x 35 cm shape. The artist has lived intimately with these beings, from the time of their arrival in the studio, strong and firm in their clean white glory, to their last moments encased in shrivelled and desiccated brown skin. She has watched them as they live, reaching upwards for the sky and the sun, stretching, shooting forth sprays of green feathery leaves. And then she has sat with them as they slow, as they yellow, as they die. Watched too how in dying they produce new shoots, how these young fronds feed off the nutrient-rich decaying mother-half.
By choosing to work with a living object there is a diary-like quality to the series. Carr is exploring the concept of change, not only the change in the growing/decaying object, but also the change in the light, the change in time, and the change in optical perception, just as Monet tracked the changing sunlight in his Rouen Cathedral paintings, and Sam Taylor Wood the passing of time in her video of rotting fruit.
“No man steps in the same river twice for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man” - Heraclitus
This sense of impermanence and perpetual flux is also there in the actual process of making the paintings, how the paint comes together to create form and then slips back to paint. The effect is magnified through considering the group as a whole, how some bulbs sit fully formed, whilst others appear to evaporate into the air, dissolve into the canvas.
As John Cage’s 4’33”celebrates the noise within “silence”; these paintings celebrate the movement within “stillness”. Indeed, they question the very notion of stillness, and reveal the nonsensicalness of the term “still” life.
Yet this fuzzy bulbous object, full of chromatic and spatial contradictions, is also a perfect vehicle through which Carr can explore her formal concerns; pitching a yellow and a grey until they mutually transform each other, or exploring the tensions thrown up by an unruly vertical form (the fennel) situated within a rigid vertical structure (the canvas). The object, like an oft-repeated word, becomes changed through repetition: stripped away from context, it becomes a purer more abstract version of itself.
As an artist known for her manipulation of scale (in other paintings she has created cavernous caves out of crumpled tissue and cinematic wildernesses from dusty table tops) it is not surprising that these diminutive vegetables should take on the monumentality of ancient oaks. As a glade in a forest, the gallery becomes a quiet space to contemplate these rich and complex works.
ABOVE IMAGES (left to right):
Untitled (FE 29), Untitled (FE 32), Untitled (FE 39), Untitled (FE33), all by Claudia Carr, 2009, oil on canvas, 35.5 x 25.5 cm