Into the Deep Woods – Manchester exhibition explores the forest

Into the Deep Woods – Artists explore the forest in this Manchester exhibition – words Robin Evans

In collaboration with a-space in Switzerland, PAPER presents this latest Manchester exhibition Into the Deep Woods. Drawing inspiration from the interpretation of the forest as the unconscious, 10 artists and a poet have responded to this notion, creating within their works a narrative construct to explore the theory of the forest as a psychological space.

The forest signifies the realm of the imagination, which, according to Lacan, is the psychic place, or phase, where the child projects its ideas of self in order to develop its own identity, sexuality, and gendered self. A recurrent theme in fairytales is the protagonist entering the forest. Through the ensuing narrative and their chilling encounters, they inevitably gain a sense of the changes in their lives, particularly from child to adult, and also a sense of morality.

At The End Of The World

It is the end of the world and God is gone.

The sun rises black behind the trees.

Humanity falls quiet under its terrible gaze.

Death appears, to guide the living,

who beg for candles to illuminate their path.

Trees turn to ash, mountains fall, the sea boils dry.

Death shows the living the way to hell,

with nothing but a pale hand,

and a whisper, that they will be happy there,

for the light and the fire never go out.

Katie Melcalfe 2016

 

Flux: How did the whole exhibition come to be, it seems very ambitious and it’s already done two stops with PAPER the final?

David Hancock: “Last year, PAPER in Liste Art Fair in Cologne. The art fair was pretty quiet and because of that, it was a great opportunity to socialise and network with the other galleries. We met Kir Royal, who we are currently collaborating with with the PAPER Dialogues exhibition at their gallery in Valencia and earlier this year we paired up PAPER’s Richard Meaghan with the Madrid-based Jose Luis Serzo, whom Kir Royal represent. We also met a-space, an artist collective from Switzerland, who also had a booth at the fair. We got on really well and we both had a mutual appreciation of each other’s artists. We met again at Art Copenhagen, and we discussed the idea for a show based around the work of Louise Isbjørn and Roy Hofer. There was a strong sense of nature in both their works: Roy focuses on these Greyspaces – these deserted shopping malls that have been reclaimed by nature – and Louise’s work focuses on the primal power of nature. I also suggested Pär Strömberg, whose interest in Black Metal and its relationship to the natural environment has always been theme present in his work, and Sharon Leahy-Clark whose work explores the unconscious and uncanny, particularly in relation to myths and fairytales.”

“The exhibition started in Lucerne at a converted nunnery in June, before heading to Basel to coincide with Art Basel. Over the weekend it was on, over 450 people visited the show. We are now really excited about the show coming to Manchester and presenting it here.”

Flux: Why the theme, how does this resonate with sprawling urbanisation and our digital cravings?

DH: “I think the theme explores ideas of escapism. I think there is a certainly a loss of our link to nature through urbanisation, and for many people, they probably only experience nature through a screen than physically. I think nature has become something a little removed from our lives. I personally – living all my life in a city – have very little understanding of nature. I also don’t drive, so it means I rarely get to experience the natural environment – even though most environments that we consider natural are man made. My partner and I got an allotment a couple of years ago, and only then did I actually consider that vegetables are seasonal. Obviously, I would have realised, but I never even considered it. The comprehension of this was never part of the daily existence. Therefore, I think through this show, we hope to suggest that nature has a position in our lives, particularly on a psychological level, no matter how removed we have become.”

Flux: What do you see part from the theme as the overarching commonality between all the artists?

DH: “I think the common thread that links all the works together is this concept of the forest as a psychological space. The forest might be depicted representationally, but there is a psychological under current in the all the work. For instance, in the work of Tyrone Richards, he represents this in the guise of veiled serial killers and their role as the big bad wolf, a sexual predator as they are portrayed in most fairy tales. On the other hand, Adam Batchelor presents an opposing view of the wolf as an animal of beauty, challenging this representation. In all the artists’ work, the forest signifies the realm of the imagination, which, according to Lacan, is the psychic place, or phase, where the child projects its ideas of self in order to develop its own identity, sexuality, and gendered self. A recurrent theme in fairytales is the protagonist entering the forest. Through the ensuing narrative and their chilling encounters, they inevitably gain a sense of the changes in their lives, particularly from child to adult, and also a sense of morality.”

Flux: What has both surprised & excited you personally about this exhibition?

DH:  “I think what has been great about this exhibition is the opportunity to pull artist from across Europe and bring them all together for this show. We have an artist from Stockholm, Berlin, Basel, Lucerne, London and Manchester. Tyrone is from LA, and Adam lives on a farm in Suffolk.”

Flux: You’ve produced new Chinese Ink drawings for this show, can you tell us why the medium and theme?

DH: “Recently, I stopped painting from photographs. I’d been working in this way for over 20 years, and I wanted to build a tangible relationship to the subjects of my work. After finishing my work on Cosplay, I wanted to retain elements of the way people create characters as a way of forming their own identity. I started collecting these Japanese Ball-Jointed-Dolls and creating identities for them. I wanted to link them all in some way: in the same way that cosplayers use texts (Manga or Computer games) to form social groups by each person taking one character each and re-enacting the text. I decided to use the elemental table as a way to link each doll to the group of dolls. I have Antimony, Hydrogen, Neon, Lithium and Carbon so far, each with their own unique identity. I chose Carbon for this exhibition, and placed him in a set of  charred forest. I made a number of drawings of him using Chinese Ink (made from Carbon) to represent him and reference his character.”

Flux: Will there be any further collaborations with a-space?

DH: “We will definitely continue our relationship and hopefully work together in the future.”

Flux: Why should folk hightail over to PAPER for this exhibition?

DH: “We are really excited by this show that has been over a year in development. The artists have made some amazing new work especially for the show. It’s also a great opportunity to view the work by artists working outside the UK. The building where PAPER is based also houses PS Mirabel, whose shows coincide with our own and a new gallery called Sloe will be opening in the basement. PS Mirabel will have their artist-in-residence, Stephen Murphy presenting work.”

Flux: What’s next for PAPER?

DH: “We have a pretty hectic few months coming up. We are doing Art Copenhagen on 25-28 August, presenting Richard Meaghan, Sharon Leahy-Clark, and Hannah Wooll. Then we head to Brussels for the Art on Paper fair at BOZAR. We will present Simon Woolham from 8-11 September. On 22-25 September we will take part in The Manchester Contemporary at The Old Granada Studios showing Mali Morris, Lisa Denyer and Linda Hemmersbach. We finish the month with the opening of Tracing PAPER. Since January we have been mentoring 9 North-West based artists and we will present them at PAPER, opening 29 September.”

Exhibition runs at PAPER Manchester until 24 September 2016 – Opening Times:Saturdays, 11am – 5pm www.paper-gallery.co.uk

Into the Deep Woods – Artists explore the forest in this Manchester exhibition – words Robin Evans

 

 

 

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