DOMINIK MERSCH GALLERY shows for the third time the works of London based, Australian artist Helen Pynor. The Life Raft continues Pynor’s meditation on the bodies of humans and animals, and the accidents of fate that determine their futures in life and in death. In her latest photographic series an historic collection of insects and crustaceans collapses slowly into the paper on which it is mounted; in the process we bear witness to the dissolution of both collector and the creatures collected.
The exhibition’s title refers ironically to the fate of these specimens, metaphorically encased within their own failed life rafts in the form of their original wooden specimen drawers, replaced here by the photographic frame. The title also harks back to the sea journey made by the specimens in an earlier era when they traveled by ship from Europe to Australia. The artist found the collection in Sydney but its provenance has been lost. Clues embedded in the closely written, yellowing specimen labels tell us that the creatures were collected in Africa and Europe beginning in the 1760s and continuing into the early twentieth century, but the identity of the collector(s) is unknown, inviting speculation on lives distant and unreachable, but strangely revealed in the intimate samples of hand writing. The artist has employed the traditional photographic techniques of toning and hand colouring of fibre-based, gelatin silver prints, creating atmospheric images that embody the rich tones and intricacy of the collection itself.
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