Polly Morgan: Endless Plains @ All Visual Arts

All Visual Arts presents the solo show of Polly Morgan, ‘Endless Plains’, comprising of four brand new sculptures and nine drawings.

Morgan is not what one would describe as a conventional artist. Her keen interest in the art of taxidermy instantly makes her medium unique and curious. Her sculptural installations are environments of taxidermied animals involved in mysterious situations. A dead stag’s stomach becomes a cave hosting a colony of bats (‘Hide and Fight’), a bunch of mushrooms sprout from a pig’s belly (‘Archipelago’), a group of piglets suck the fluid of a large fallen tree trunk (‘The Fall’) and a fox is surrendered to the tentacles presumably of an octopus or an imaginative vicious creature (‘Harbour’). “Alive” birds observe and take part in the previous scenes. Morgan’s nine ash drawings depict bird nests that were drawn with the cremated ashes of birds whereas a taxidermied bird is placed on top of each picture frame leading to obvious parallelisms.

Morgan’s visual language does not only confront the viewer with the obvious macabre circumstance but also develops a more in depth narrative to feed our imagination. Divulging death as the starting point we are hit with an unreal development of things and we soon begin the exploration of the given surreal scenarios. Despite the palpable reference to the connotations of life and death, the exhibited artwork investigates the cycle of life and the subjective role that a predator or a parasite can play; a parasite may become a predator’s prey but the latter can easily be invaded by a parasite and turn into its prey. Life mobility seems to be one of Morgan’s main concerns. The visual story of two of her sculptures (‘The Fall’ and ‘Archipelago’) demonstrate the interrelation of the diptych “mother nature and mother-and-child” by swapping natural behaviours with unorthodox ones.

The exhibited environments might have a profound surreal element that induces the viewer’s intolerance or even xenophobia towards unknown events. However, this obtrusive exaggeration underlines the notion of life’s balance fragility. Although some might think that Morgan’s exhibition deals with the macabre side of life, her artwork should be treated as an experimental exploration of our world and a celebration of life.

Polly Morgan talked to REVma -/+ about her exhibition and work.

REVma -/+: You create still life installations in which animals appear as protagonists. Is taxidermy for you a representation of an animal’s dead shell and past life or a reinvented image reflecting a new and unknown idiosyncrasy?
P.M.: It is anything I want it to be. I see the animals I use as raw materials; like paint or clay. I try not to be restricted by the thought that it has come from a dead animal. If I did, I would get very stuck for ideas in no time. It is a challenge to try to get people to see beyond that, but when they do I feel I have succeeded.

REVma -/+: Your narrative in “Endless Plains” involves non-natural scenarios in an almost surreal context. Does this mean you are fascinated by objective anomalies that could potentially occur within nature itself or do you flirt with an idea of a parallel system where life may behave in a contradistinct fashion?
P.M.: I just feel that to illustrate nature in a realistic fashion wouldn’t bring anything new to the fore. It would be more of a science exhibition than art. Nature is perverted, cannibalistic and surreal at times but in order to make this point it is more effective to show people an invented parallel than to simply recreate a known scenario. I try to keep as close to reality as I need to in order to create a sense of the uncanny. If I were to deviate too wildly, I think the work would begin to look comical and like a stunt.

REVma -/+: Where do you see the practise of taxidermy leading your visual language towards and have you envisaged works of a much larger scale?
P.M.: I find it hard to know in which direction I am heading as I couldn’t have predicted I would make my latest work as recently as four months ago. I feel I am moving away from pieces that are twee or cosy and into less comfortable territory. I am also learning new techniques (drawing and casting at the moment), which will no doubt inspire a shift in the materials I choose. I don’t see scale as having much relevance to my progression. Although I have been making works on a larger scale recently, this was as much to do with the size of the exhibition space as anything. The most important thing is that my working practise and concepts evolve and that I don’t start to repeat myself.