Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

House of Beasts at Attingham Park, Atcham, Shrewsbury, UK

by Suzanne on August 1st, 2011

1 - Evacuate by Kate MccGwire, bird feathers coming out of pot - click to enlarge

When news reached me a month ago that Meadow Arts were curating a year-long site-specific group show of taxidermy, sculpture and installation art entitled House of Beasts at the breathtaking Attingham Park in Shrewsbury (Charles Darwin's birthplace - how perfect!), I knew that there was still hope that the Elder Gods can indeed hear our prayers and pleas for great art exhibitions in the UK and do receive our sacrifices.

2 - Foreground: Untitled (Sphere) by Alastair Mackie, mouse skulls, wood, glass, courtesy the artist and All Visual Arts / Background: Herd by Susie MacMurray, cut antlers, silk velvet, Meadow Arts Commission 2011 - click to enlarge

House of Beasts is way more than land-art meets Wunderkammer though - Meadow Arts have managed to create a surreal fictional space where taxidermy becomes alive and sculpture becomes organic.

3 - Refuge by Nina Saunders, taxidermy fox, upholstered armchair, courtesy David Roberts Collection - click to enlarge - click here for detail

Where Nina Saunders' little fox (picture 3) just stretched its paws and yawned, where Tessa Farmer's insect warriors battle fearlessly with their porcupine spine spears, where Daphne Wright's swan (picture 7) is drying its feathers after an invigorating swim in the River Tern, where Polly Morgan's magpie (picture 5) just picked up the phone, where Kate MccGwire's leech-like feather blob (picture 1) is spooking and creeping around the house like it's trapped in some Edward Gorey book or Ray Caesar artwork.

4 - Chandelier (Katy’s Convoy) by Nina Saunders, chandelier with taxidermy birds, courtesy the artist - click to enlarge

I've had a long love and passion for artists combining bone and filigree with taxidermy, so I immediately knew this would work perfectly at an old manor house like Attingham Park but when I saw the line-up of artists, I did need to reach for the smelling salts, it is that amazing.

5 - One for Sorrow by Polly Morgan, bakelite telephone and taxidermy magpie, courtesy the artist - click to enlarge

Featured artists include:

*INHALES* Ruth Claxton, Mat Collishaw, Tessa Farmer, Rachel Goodyear, Kathleen Herbert, Alastair Mackie, Susie MacMurray, Kate MccGwire, Polly Morgan, Nina Saunders, Anj Smith, Daphne Wright *EXHALES*.

6 - The Beast in Me by Mat Collishaw, digital photograph, courtesy Anne Faggionato - click to enlarge

Yeah, I know, right? A plethora of reasons to drag yourself to Shropshire before mid-July 2012. Details below.

Many thanks to Anne de Charmant, director of Meadow Arts for the in-situ image material.

7 - Swan by Daphne Wright, cast marble dust, Meadow Arts Commission 2007 - click to enlarge

On show: Jul 2, 2011 - Jul 15, 2012

Address: House of Beasts at Attingham Park, Atcham, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4TP, tel: 01743 708123 (INFOLINE), email: attingham@nationaltrust.org.uk | Exhibition map

Press release | Exhibition map

WurzelForum discussion

by suzanne_tumblr on November 16th, 2010

Mat Collishaw’s Creation Condemned currently on show at Blain/Southern London. Message me with your email address for images and installation views. 

Chiharu Shiota & Jitish Kallat at Haunch of Venison, London

by Suzanne on March 18th, 2010

The Astronomy of the Subway (detail) by Jitish Kallat, resin, steel, 2009

It's been another epic Art Thursday. I'm so happy that I don't have weekends, but Wednesdays and Thursdays off. This way, I get to see the best art in town with no-one around AND I get to go to SpitFields Antiques Market. Weeeeeeee!

I was thinking of maybe turning my Art Thursdays into little tours so that other art enthusiasts could join me, but alas, I have way too many ideas to improve this metropolis with a dose of Wurzelness already but too little time. Anyways, it's something to keep in mind... free WurzelArt® Thursdays. Yessir.

Anyways, after buying my yet tiniest doll at SpitFields, I headed off to the Gagosian, Alison Jacques Gallery and finally Haunch of Venison.

One Place (detail) by Chiharu Shiota, 400 windows (Eastside of Berlin), 2010

I would like to selfishly take this opportunity to manifest once and for all that I absolutely hate going to the Gagosian because of its ridiculous subliminal haute couture dress code and 3 security guards per room. Yes, I do look like a tramp, Larry, my dear, but I do admire your collection greatly and for one believe that interchangeable noir designer fashion has absolutely NADA to do with great art, so why don't you GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK and stop treating me like a terrorist for once just because I don't wear YSL and actually have a brain where your vacuous employees have a bottomless perfume reservoir. The reason why I get close up with your art is because I need to figure out how things are MADE! I'm analytic and thorough like that. SRSLY, your place is beginning to piss me off epically and I don't need a guy to open the door for me. It's retarded very passé.

Anyways, more about the actual show later. There were two of my favourite Bellmers, so yes, it was rather sweet.

Kudos to Alison Jacques for handing out free exhibition posters. These things always make me come back. I'm a sucker for freebies. Particularly if it's a depiction of a skeleton and a naked woman. Yay! More about their Ana Mendieta exhibition later too.

During Sleep by Chiharu Shiota, black wool, bed, 2010

So on to the best show of the day which was Chiharu Shiota at Haunch of Venison who exhibited alongside Jitish Kallat (top picture).

I missed her twice and was overjoyed to make it this time. And I wasn't disappointed.

HoV's vast, kafkaesque rooms were completely empty so I found myself very small and exposed standing in the middle of During Sleep (see above).

There's a lot of bullshit labelled as "existentialist art", but this is the real deal. Shiota's installations change your heartbeat, remind you of long forgotten childhood incidences in the forest and stop your breath. This was the most dreamlike, most fragile, most painful, most saddening exhibition I've ever seen. You stumble through During Sleep and you come out different in space and time and experience.

I remember Stéphane Blanquet doing something very similar to my psyche with his bedroom installation Beautycity at Fumetto 07 (my article in German) and most recently Alice Anderson with her Alice in Wonderland hair claustrophobica at Riflemaker (more later!), but Shiota reached deeper, maybe because my dream bedrooms are very similar to hers and I often dream about being very small and caught up in a ball of yarn and growing ever smaller and smaller and rooms expanding like lungs around me, forever inhaling.

So there I was, standing in my very own dream, 5 minutes from Piccadilly Circus at 2 PM.

Trauma / Alltag (dress) by Chiharu Shiota, steel frame, wool thread, plaster paint, dress, 2009

I love this city.

And I love my signed and numbered edition of Insecticides by Mat Collishaw for £25. Yay!

On show: February 19 - March 27, 2010

Address: Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens, London, W1S 3ET, UK, tel: +44(0)20 7495 5050 | Map

Gallery hours: Mon - Fri: 10 AM - 6 PM, Sat: 10 AM - 5 PM

Admission: Free

Featured artists: Chiharu Shiota & Jitish Kallat

Online preview