For the third time MOGADISHNI has the great pleasure of presenting the British London-based artist Rebecca Stevenson (b. 1971) in the gallery where she will be exhibiting new works for the solo exhibition “Tempting Nature”.
Served up like dishes at a bizarre, rococo banquet, the work lures the eye and the senses. A candy-pink swan is all done up like a fantastic cake, sticky cherries tumbling from fine layers of flesh and feathers. A cute baby bear, straight out of a Disney movie, looks like he’s smiling up at the viewer, whilst the skin of his back unfurls to reveal peaches, berries and butterscotch flowers. Sugary surfaces look positively lickable, chocolate-coloured roses good enough to eat. Excessive and outrageous, sweet to the point of being toxic, the works seem to tempt the viewer to the visual consumption of something that is both pleasurable and poisonous.
In “Tempting Nature”, a selection of animals have been meticulously prepared for the delectation of the viewer. Exquisitely crafted, at once charming and disturbing, the material of each sculpted creature is teased open creating lush, coloured wounds and cavities, which are in turn stuck with exotic flora and stuffed with succulent fruit. The perversity of this process, like the twofold nature of the work, is reflected by the show’s ambiguous title.
To tempt can mean to allure or entice, but also to provoke, as in the English expression “Tempting Fate”. Read this way, “tempting nature” suggests a risky undertaking on behalf of the artist, an absurd intent to imitate or improve upon nature. Stevenson’s work recalls forms and practices which use painstaking processes to mimic or refine the natural – stuffed animals, wax flowers, botanical illustrations, still life, genetic modification – forms that, whether employed in the name of art or science, reveal an obsession with pinning things down, like a row of butterflies in a frame.
Unlike the dead hares and game birds routinely draped across still life paintings, Stevenson’s animals are resolutely animate, even perky. The disjunction between this and their wounded, unravelled state is disconcerting. Whilst referring to scientific representations of the natural world, these works eschew taxonomy, and elude description or containment. Hybrid and chimerical in nature, they embody a specific otherness that relates to the ungovernable processes of nature itself: growth, replication, transformation.