Parafin is delighted to present a cross-generational exhibition of artists exploring themes related to biomorphism – the use of abstract forms or motifs that evoke forms from nature such as plants and parts of the body. The works included focus on aesthetic investigations into the interconnection between the human and the environment, and the environment in the human.
Taking as a reference point the poem by Dylan Thomas, The force that through the green fuse drives the flower (1934), the exhibition explores the paradox of creative and destructive forces coming together in human nature and the biological. In Thomas’s poem, nature is depicted as glorious, fecund and seductive, but also threatening. He contrasts growth and fertility with the forces of decay and disintegration, suggesting an eternal cycle in which all things are interconnected. Following the poem’s logic, the exhibition opens up a poetic space to reveal ways in which, at times, an intense identification (or separation) of the self with the world and the world with the self can take form.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
Exploring the language of abstraction, combining found organic materials with paint, encaustic, charcoal, clay and welded metal, the diverse works in the show explore ways of representing nature and experience, as well as mortality. As Evelina Hägglund says: ‘I want to reflect how life and matter is interdependent and interconnected.’
Works from two important series by Michelle Stuart, Brookings (1989) and the Seed Calendars (1992-97) are emblematic of Stuart’s varied practice. These works incorporate natural materials – plants and seeds – gathered from particular sites, and become a record of Stuart’s experience. Seed Calendar: One Month Five Days in Bali Java and Sulewesi (1994) contains 36 grape seeds – one for each day of Stuart’s journey through Indonesia. The seeds are applied to squares of Chinese paper and arranged in a grid but the work is more about intensified intimacy than scientific rigour. The systematic structure is undermined by the seeds themselves, which seep and bleed into the paper in irregular, concentric circles. Haloed by its own fugitive fluids, each seed generates an idiosyncratic, automatic drawing like another kind of indexical trace, beyond the artists immediate control. The Brookings series arrange plant specimens in the manner of a herbarium, yet withhold information about species, location etc, thereby undermining their seeming purpose. They become aesthetic, memorialised objects.
Joan Snyder’s powerful and expressive paintings incorporate found organic materials – earth, poppy heads, grasses – as well as papers, burlap and cloth. Her work beckons for a higher existence at the same time as expressing a relationship with the environment. Snyder’s diaristic approach to painting renders the canvas an extension of her own experiences. The title of Proserpina (2012) refers to mother-daughter relationships but also to the Greek goddess who represents the change of the seasons and the nature of the death and rebirth cycle. The paint is thick and lean, alluring and seductive, yet also intimidating.
Nika Neelova is interested in geological processes and the transformation of materials. Her work often enacts a process she calls ‘reverse archaeology.’ In the Ripple Stone pieces, made by repeatedly pushing her fingers into soft clay before applying a glaze of coloured resin, the process creates an object reminiscent of the geological record. The body’s traces become an analogy for the impact of time and climate on the land.
Organic motifs – seeds, feathers, plants – fluctuate through the work of Aimée Parrott. Her forms suggest a sense of movement and allude to growth. Her abstract work has an atmosphere of interconnectivity with the environment where unnameable microbial forms add to the overall impression of a relationship between the micro and the macro, evolution and deep time. While her work may read like abstractions her sensitivity to/for representational motifs reveal her interest in the transformations observed in ecological or geological structures and other matter.
Evelina Hägglund‘s sculptures, drawings, and notations made in an indecipherable language, attest not only to the difficulty of communicating interior experiences, but evoke the forms of nature, trees, branches, nervous systems. Hägglund says ‘My position is between culture and nature. My task is to undo the constructed binary between the two.’ She has made works involving actual excavations into the ground. She relates holes in the landscape to be like holes in language. Each of her works are an abstract utteration and her titles point to the limits of language. I Silence (2023) is a cast of the inside of the artist’s mouth, a small, uncanny object that embodies Thomas’s recurring refrain, ‘I am dumb’, which runs through his poem. Hägglund describes the work: ‘I want to capture this location of silence. The mouth, a place of meaning-making. The mouth, the place of articulation, speech, shouting. The mouth, now, the place of silence. The resulting sculpture. My silent position in the world, materialised.’
The exhibition has been curated by Louisa Hunt and Ben Tufnell.
Michelle Stuart (b.1933, Los Angeles) has been internationally recognised for innovative works that synthesise Land art, drawing and sculpture. Since her first solo exhibitions in the early 1970s Stuart has exhibited extensively internationally. Her work is in major museum collections including Tate, London, MoMA, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Moderna Museet, Stockholm and the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld. Stuart lives and works in New York. Parafin presented a solo exhibition of Stuart’s work, ‘Trace Memory: Selected Works 1969–2015’, in 2015, followed by a solo presentation at Frieze Masters in 2016.
Joan Snyder (b.1940, New Jersey) first gained public attention in the early 1970s with her ‘stroke paintings’, which used the grid to deconstruct the story of abstract painting. By the late 70s Snyder, abandoning the formality of the grid, began to more explicitly incorporate symbols and text, as the paintings took on a more complex materiality. In 2018, her work was included in Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera, an ongoing exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Snyder’s works are in numerous museum collections, including Tate, London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Jewish Museum, New York, Guggenheim Museum, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard Art Museums, The National Gallery, Washington, and others. Snyder lives and works in New York and Woodstock.
Nika Neelova studied at the Royal Art Academy in The Hague and the Slade School of Art, London. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘One of Many Fragments’ (with Edward Allington), New Art Centre Roche Court (2021), ‘SILT’, Brighton CCA (2021), ‘EVER’, The Tetley, Leeds (2019), and ‘Glyphs’, curated by Domenico de Chirico, Turin (2019). Selected group exhibitions include ‘(Everything is) Not What it Seems’, NITJA Museum, Oslo (2022, touring to Piran Museum of Visual Art, Slovenia, 2023), ‘Silence is so accurate’ at Geukens de Vil, Antwerp (2020), ‘Seventeen. The Age of Nymphs’ curated by Daria Khan, Mimosa House, London (2019), ‘Hortus Conclusus’, Fondazione 107, Turin (2019), ‘She Sees the Shadows’, curated by Olivia Leahy and Adam Carr, The Roberts Institute of Art & Mostyn (2018). Her work is in collections including the Celine Art Collection, The Roberts Institute of Art, London, Saatchi Gallery Collection, London, and Modern Forms, London. Nika Neloova lives and works in London. A major new site specific commission by Neelova recently opened at Santozeum, Fira Town, Santorini.
Aimée Parrott (b.1987, Brighton) studied at University College Falmouth and Royal Academy Schools. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Waterborne’, Parafin, London (2023), ‘Whitehawk Camp’, Mackintosh Lane, London (2022), ‘Gaia’s Kidney’, Broadway Gallery, Letchworth Garden City (2020) and ‘Blood Sea’, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2018). She has participated in numerous group exhibitions including ’The Conference of the Birds’ at Tristan Hoare Gallery, London (2022), ‘Superpower’ at Sim Smith Gallery, London (2022), ‘Secret of Lightness’ at Parafin, London (2022), ‘Press 24: Charlie Billingham and Aimée Parrott’ at Sid Motion Gallery, London (2021), and ‘The Studio at 4am’ at Hastings Contemporary (2020), Parrott lives and works in Brighton.
Evelina Hägglund (b.1992) lives and works in London and Stockholm. By making sculptures, drawings and paintings made of metal, paint, concrete, canvas, clay and graphite, she explores physicality as a way of communicating. She studied at AVA - Academy of Visual Arts, Ljubljana and at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions internationally, including at Pradiauto, Spain (2023), Incubator, UK (2022), Cromwell Place, London (2022), Green Family Foundation, US (2022), Nicoletti Contemporary, UK (2022), Union Pacific, London (2021), Saatchi Gallery, L.l., UK (2021), Inter Pblc, Copenhagen, (2021), Jakobsbergs Konsthall (2020), Kiribati National Museum, Tarawa (2019), Temporary Gallery, Germany (2016), and the Biennial of Graphic Arts, The Museum of Modern Art, Slovenia (2015). Hägglund was a resident at Transborders in Austria/Slovenia (2019) and Land404 in Sweden (2018).