Lucy Willow 'Memento Mori'

7 Mar 2009 – 29 Mar 2009


St Ives, United Kingdom


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Artist Statement My interest in Death as a subject matter lies at the heart of all my current and past work, connecting it to a dark, visceral, Gothic landscape. I see ‘Gothic' as a way of thinking and imagining that for me has been there since early childhood. My work has a deeply melancholic edge reflecting a great beauty that can be found in sadness. I have always been interested in exploring dark imagery and the transgression from what is considered ‘safe'. With an uncontrollable desire to look at the darker side of life there is a connection to a contemporary gothic blackness reflecting a culture of fear that we live in. A sense of control and order is created within the work in a world where we have none. The 19 Century philosopher Edmund Burke talks about the dual quality of fear and attraction, in ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful' which create emotions such as terror and delight. For me there is a sublime beauty to be found in death, a dark melancholic voyeurism that provokes feelings of fear and delight. The series of photographic works titled ‘Memento Mori' (remember that you are mortal and everything must die) have a grotesque and yet beautiful attraction. The main body of work consists of a series of manipulated (by working into the surface of wet inkjet prints with a paint brush) still life photographs that give you a sense that what you are looking at is dripping and decaying before your eyes. Using an appropriation of 17century imagery from Vanitas still life paintings such as the skull, bubble, extinguished candle, butterfly's, rotting fruit, flowers and jewellery, symbols traditionally associated with passing and the transience of life. Within the photographs I have incorporated objects, which relate to my own personal iconography such as the dead canary. The canary is used within my work at a metaphor again for the fragility of life and the birds ability to sense danger. Canaries have weak hearts and can die very suddenly. One magpie appears in some photographs, symbolic of sorrow and a lamb's heart appears as a symbol of purity, innocence and the loss of young life. My work crosses between reality and fantasy exploring cultural codes, social laws and taboos, the rational and irrational and for me is a manifestation of contemporary fears: of death itself. Lucy Willow


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