artist / participant
Spencer Brownstone Gallery is delighted to present the first New York solo exhibition by London-based sculptor Tessa Farmer.
Tessa Farmer's unique body of work conjures a fantastical miniature world from organic material including twisted plant roots, dead insects, bones, and taxidermied animals. The chief protagonists of this world are her ant-sized 'fairies', half insect/half humanoid skeletal creatures with skull heads and twisted limbs, who roam with malevolent intent the sculptural tableaux the artist creates for them, attacking the hapless insects, birds, and small animals that serve as their unwilling hosts.
Farmer sets about creating her sculptures with the obsessive precision of an entomologist, and their detail is truly astonishing, giving us the sense that we have stumbled upon a secret parallel world. For this exhibition, she will be presenting five new sculptural pieces that offer the viewer an unfolding narrative as they move around the gallery space. From a mummified dog layered with a wasp's nest that serves as a kind of parasitic farm, her exquisitely nasty fairies will set out on a journey aboard a ram's skull to surround and colonize a stuffed crow wrapped in silken cocoons, a calcified rat, and an escaping band of mice trapped in a cobweb net.
Presented in the gallery backspace, two of Farmer's remarkable stop motion films, produced in collaboration with Sean Daniels, will literally animate her sculptures, drawing out their willfully destructive antics to the full. 'An Insidious Intrusion', shot at London’s Natural History Museum, imagines a savage teeming world existing through a hole in the wall, alongside the oblivious ranks of the museum's collected specimens. 'Nest Of The Skeletons' plays brilliantly on the paranoid fantasies of parasitic invasion and colonization that the proximity to insects often evokes. The film zooms us in to the limply hanging body of a straw scarecrow to reveal one version of the origin and birth of her fairies.
Much of the artist's recent practice has been inspired by her 2007 residency at London’s Natural History Museum, and her work plays on a strong undercurrent of horror and abjection that has always existed as a counter-narrative to the Victorian tradition of naturalism. If that tradition sought to master the natural world by physically and intellectually rationalizing it, Tessa Farmer's work offers a brilliant redress, her creatures harbingers of a forgotten apocalypse, here to seek revenge for all their insect brethren once smothered in killing jars and pinned as display case trophies.
Tessa Farmer was born in Birmingham, England in 1978. After receiving her MFA from the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in 2003, her work was included in the 2004 edition of the 'Bloomberg New Contemporaries', where her installation 'Swarm' was spotted by Charles Saatchi and purchased for his collection. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Oxford in 2006, and at the Natural History Museum, London, in 2007, which was accompanied by the publication of a monograph. She has participated in group exhibitions at Jerwood Space, The Barbican Art Gallery, and the Royal British Society of Sculptors, London.
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