Alison Turnbull. If Mimicry Minded

21 Apr 2018 – 29 Apr 2018

Regular hours

12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Alison Turnbull. If Mimicry Minded1

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Matt's Gallery

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Nine Elms, Vauxhall
  • Vauxhall
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Alison Turnbull's personal interest in moths and butterflies provides a point of departure for her third exhibition at Matt's Gallery.


If Mimicry Minded borrows its title from a short, scientific note by the writer and celebrated lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977). "I discovered in nature the non-utilitarian delights that I sought in art." wrote Nabokov. "Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception." Nabokov dealt with mimicry within a group of butterflies known as the 'Blues'. However, it is the Crimson-patched Longwing and other Heliconiusbutterflies that have become iconic in the understanding of mimicry.

In 2017 Turnbull travelled to Chocó, Colombia at the invitation of Más Arte Más Acción to study butterflies in the Pacific rainforest, working alongside Dr Blanca Huertas, Senior Curator in Lepidoptera at the Natural History Museum, London.

From this visit Turnbull has developed a series of observational watercolours produced from butterfly specimens gathered on her trip. The Heliconius melpomene vulcanusexhibited here exercised particular fascination and these works mark a distinctive detour or byway within the artist's practice as a painter.

The subject of mimicry resonates with Turnbull's thinking about painting and the processes of mapping, transcription and conversion that are evident throughout her work. Turnbull translates images from 'real' or found sources onto the abstract surface of her carefully worked paintings. In a new, predominantly white painting, juxtaposed with the butterflies, Turnbull sets up a tension between the differences and repetitions of her layered motifs, emphasised in the mirroring she sets in play.

The works exhibited form part of an extended project. Later in the year Turnbull will publish Psyche or, The Butterfly, an expanded field guide and in June present a programme on butterflies for BBC Radio 4. 

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Alison Turnbull


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