The current exhibition by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos at Haunch of Vension is entitled I Will Survive and consists of an impressive collection of recent work that addresses issues of vernacular tradition versus modern technology, nationality, sex, gender and identity. The witty and intelligent objects and set pieces mostly rely on their materiality to communicate. I particularly enjoyed Passerelle; an industrial carousel from which hang scaled-up porcelain dogs, of the style one might find in a Portuguese home. A control pedal operates the conveyor which sets the dogs in motion, causing them to crash against one another and gradually chip, crack and destroy themselves.
A number of other works are based around ceramic sculptures – classical forms, animals and a piano all feature – covered in traditional crocheted lace. Combining these two crafts in such a way makes us question the validity and value of them both, producing a beautiful yet contradictory effect as the lace partially hides the form.
Also on display are a range of large scale sculptures that utilise traditional techniques including patchwork, knitting and weaving and manifest themselves as hulking organisms; giant, imposing forms that are, in fact, made from delicate and soft materials.
Garden of Eden is an installation of fibre optic flowers “planted” in a configuration that leads the visitor through a darkened room: glimmering like phosphorescence, the affect is both magical and unnerving, a kind of artificial hyper-nature. This is an impressive collection from an artist whose work explores themes that are particularly relevant to contemporary society.
Polly Morgan‘s Psychopomps are a collection of taxidermy sculptures offering a darkly surreal interpretation of our conception of birds and the properties of flight. Suspended above the viewer, (though at eye level from the mezzanine) the pieces seem to be in flight; perhaps escaping or setting off on a journey? Systematic Inflammation consists of a flock of canaries carrying their cage away, inverting the relationship between captivity and freedom.
Black and Blue Fever are clouds of disembodied wings; faceless, directionless but full of the energy of a bird in flight. Like much of Morgan’s output, these pieces are familiar yet unreal and unsettling and are fine examples of an artist on top of her game.
Until 25 September