TJ Boulting is delighted to announce the second solo show of British artist Stephanie Quayle. Working predominantly in clay to produce expressive animal forms, for this show she has been inspired by the primal and profound human animal connection, the encounter between man and beast, through both looking to the past and ancient cave paintings, to the world around her and the farm on which she lives in the Isle of Man.
Entering the main gallery you are confronted with large clay cattle, constructed in situ from terracotta clay. Moving amongst the herd is a predatory pack animal, the wolf, which connects to the working dogs on her farm. Both cattle and dogs are an incredibly familiar sight to Quayle, she spends every day living and working alongside them, and it is a natural representation of her fascination with the encounter between man and animal, transplanted into the gallery. On the walls surrounding the animals are drawings in four colours of clay: terracotta, ochre, umber, and charcoal. The wolf represents the canine, the closest human acquaintance, co-existing in the space, co-depending worlds yet without the possibility of communication due to the boundaries of the herd, the pack, with their alliances and separations. What separates humans from animals, and what binds us? Quayle: “At our deepest core we are animal and we can relate and recoil at our shared understanding. Yet as much as we identify with, and think we know and understand animals, there is a space between us, the more time I spend with cattle, dogs, cats, beasts, the further their gaze seems to stare. We cannot master nature, we are part of it, and yet it is indifferent to us, and undermines us, and its inaccessibility unsettles us from within.”
Quayle also found instant resonations in her work with Werner Herzog’s film ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. This presents a cave totally closed to the public in southern France, and where they gain brief access to film 32,000 year old drawings and paintings on the walls of animals. These incredible discoveries hint not at the usual hunter prey relationship, where herds of bison would be depicted, but more predators themselves, lions, panthers, and also a deeper shared familiarity in all of us. “Dubbed the birth /awakening of the modern human soul, it is amazing to see the desire to connect to animals and it somehow underlines parallels with all activity since then, including mine now. Picasso said after seeing cave paintings in his native Spain: "We have learned nothing since." Similarly the drawings seem so simple yet powerful. I believe their motivation to draw in dark caves was the quest for something beyond us, a search deep into the abyss of the human condition, the oldest and most mystifying of art. I can identify with them still today, the act of drawing something binds you to it, it captures you.”
Another mystical element in the Herzog cave is that of the half-human half-animal figures, which here Quayle has chosen to focus on and recreate in her own sculptures, the ‘Lion Man’ and ‘Deer Woman’ in the furthest recess of the gallery. For Quayle: “Herzog’s delivery of the encounter with the cave is simple and yet profound, it's an emotional reaction, not one of anthropology or historical, there is a deep sense of awe and identity. Yet an incomprehension for the time that has passed. The drawings could have been made yesterday.”
Human and animal are at one in the depths and darkness of the cave, and it is this connection that Quayle seeks to explore with her clay sculptures and drawings, using material similar to that which they used thousands of years ago, to mould expressive half human half animal forms, and liquid clay slip to daub the walls of the gallery in her drawings. The gallery space itself is a basement without light, and has similarly inspired Quayle to recreate the cave-like context in the installation of her work. As she concludes: “The cave; a home, a den, a shelter for daydreaming, intimate solitude, the studio, our heads.”
Stephanie Quayle completed her BA at the Slade School of Art, and her MA in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art in 2007. Her first solo show was at Trolley Gallery (the former space of TJ Boulting in 2008). Since then she has completed major commissions in 2010 for Comme des Garcons in Tokyo and Beijing and 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf. Recent solo shows in 2013 include with Nantenshi Gallery & T Gallery, Tokyo and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales. She lives and works on the Isle of Man.
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