"Claire Morgan: I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead" now open at Galerie Karsten Greve

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"Claire Morgan: I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead" now open at Galerie Karsten Greve
Claire Morgan in her studio 2023. © Claire Morgan Studio / Photo: John McKenzie. Photo courtesy of Galerie Karsten Greve.

COLOGNE .- Galerie Karsten Greve is now presenting the fifth solo exhibition by artist Claire Morgan in Cologne as part of this year's DC Open Galleries. "I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead" presents the artist's first figurative body of work in which women are the central protagonists alongside animals, woven in an unfolding, fractured narrative, throughout the galleries. In nearly thirty new works ranging from painting, installation, sculpture, drawing and printmaking, the exhibition explores the fear of the unknown and loss of control.

Expanding on Claire Morgan's artistic vocabulary which has, until now, captivated with intricate compositions of plant seeds, insects, taxidermy, and multicoloured waste plastic, this exhibition is populated by human presences: sculptures made of wax, textile, animal skin and hair are key to this new group of works by the Irish-born artist, as are ambitious largescale works in pastel, depicting relationships between humans and animals.

“The bodies depicted are sites of significance, vulnerability, and agency that deliberately challenge the well-worn trope of the body or being as commodity. My interspecies relationships suggest a potential reimagining of how we relate to ourselves, each other and our environment.”

The image of the woman holding a fox has evolved over many years. Claire Morgan is interested in the fictional stories we conjure to protect ourselves, and our subjugation of others as a result of acting on these stories: “I make no attempt to give the animal skins the illusion of life, nor do I disguise their imperfect state. I am navigating our breaking points, the tension between vulnerability and power, between communion and colonization. It conjures theage of mass extinction we are entering, implicates us all, and invites us to consider our own role in this collective act of destruction.”

In each piece there are the traces of time spent, evidence of the hand, direct engagement through repetition and layering, through printmaking, handwriting, sculpting with clay, sewing found textiles, piercing wax to embed hair, observational drawing. This slow unfurling of time is manifested in a concertina book, in the imperfect beings suspended from the ceiling, in a precarious rhythm, mirroring the cyclical forces of nature. Richly pigmented buttery pastel carves flesh onto exposed woodgrain, paper is painted and folded by hand to reveal its physicality, fragmented feather and fur are bound together by threads. Moulded and manipulated clay and bees wax possess a luminosity and fragility in dialogue with the animal matter present. Alongside the instinctive physical appeal of wax, its significance is broadened by its history as a sculptural material. Its uses in early anatomical waxworks of female bodies and in early taxidermy techniques are of particular interest, as is Edgar Degas's Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer (1878-81, National Gallery of Art, London), not only due to the ‘poor’ materials used, but also because of the vulnerability and, ultimately, the expendability of the subject.

I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead is the central spine of the exhibition from which everything else evolves. This book is the outcome of a period of experimentation with writing and printmaking, and is composed of seven drawings and two concurrent handwritten texts that form a dialogue between a living woman and a dead fox. The work is about actions and consequences. It is about hopes and realities. It is about a life lived and a life stolen.

Small works made from wax and hair include Strung Out, I piss a box around myself and wait in there for nothing, and Bloom. Utilizing the uncanny, and the scale and strange power of votive figures, these become frank and tenderconfrontations with the objects of our fears. They are deeply honest explorations of grief and longing.

The monumental installation The inevitable heat death of the universe located in the entrance area of the exhibition shows a figure of a woman surrounded by dead birds. This work centres around power and vulnerability, shame and desperation, and ultimately, with futility. “The history of the female nude has been one of limitation, provocation, othering, and titillation. And yet there is a profound simplicity and a clarity to the form – this is what we are. There is a desperate need for greater understanding between species" she says. Morgan succeeds in making the viewer aware of the vulnerabilities of human existence and alienation from the world around them, while at the same time showing in a poetic and conciliatory way that everything is interconnected and mutually dependent.

"I'm looking for a different kind of intimacy in my work." -Claire Morgan

Galerie Karsten Greve
Claire Morgan: I only dared to touch you once I knew that you were dead
September 1st, 2023 - October 28th, 2023
The opening will take place as part of DC Open Galleries 2023.

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