In 2015 Sarah Lederman and Alexander Lumsden were introduced to two paintings from the 1930s by Swedish artist Mosse Stoopendaal. They were invited to freely respond to these works, unimpeded by boundaries and curatorial trends. Lederman and Lumsden have therefore created artistic responses to paintings of Magpies (Pica Pica) and Great Tits (Parus Major) rooted in their individual practices and interpretations. Paintings by Lederman and sculptures by Lumsden reflect on the freedom of wild birds in contrast to humanity’s eternal struggle with and within its own confines.
Alexander Lumsden quotes the 13th century Persian version of the spiritual couplet The Elephant in the Dark Room by Maulána Jalálu-d'-Dín Muhammad i Rúmí. The moral of the story is that each person responding individually to a situation inevitably creates conflicts instead of resolving problems. This cements Lumsden’s artistic credo that “the figures could be anyone, and in a way become everyone.” His sculptures of contemporary immigrants – cocooned in their sleeping bags - trapped by our society´s inability to cooperate, embody the anyone and everyone.
Lumsden´s response sits in juxtaposition to the collaborative magpies and great tits that are not migratory birds but are however borderless. Other works by Lumsden in the exhibition incorporate elements of found objects. This part of his oeuvre illustrates Lumsden’s concern that “unlike the animal kingdom, our world is filled with defined borders and regulations, which have forever changed the pattern of human migration and ultimately our ability to relate to one another”.
In contrast, Sarah Lederman´s artistic practice is firmly based in the materiality of paint applied to canvas. In this sense her work has a common thread with Stoopendaal´s artistic output. Lederman also incorporates animals in her paintings but as she remarks they are more akin to “small creatures [that] crawl across the body of the paintings looking for something to suckle on”.
The pure colours of Stoopendaal’s works are mirrored by Lederman in her responses. Yet within the paintings we find the contrasts; her apparently calm paintings are informed by medieval illuminated manuscripts, Japanese ‘shunga’ prints and traditional representations of femininity. Within this calmness lies an exploration of the materiality of paint to create an environment where the female body is fluid, free, and uncontrollable. Lederman has moved away from a focus on the female body but spurred by the Great Tits a subtler exploration of femininity resides within her paintings.