The Challenger's Report is the first UK solo exhibition by Argentinian artist Irene Kopelman, which looks at how relationships to landscape and the natural world are culturally conditioned and subject to change.
Kopelman's work is rooted in drawing in situ and guided by laboured processes of copying and re-production which reveal a fascination with landscape and the act of looking. Borrowing patterns from nature or techniques of observation and classification from the history of science, her drawing, painting and sculpture is characterised by imperfections that foreground the conditions (cramped, dusty, rainy, etc.) of its making. Inspired by the expeditions of renowned explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, her work is founded upon empirical research carried out in the field or in naturalist archives and collections.
The Challenger's Report centres on how acts of looking are mediated by culture, invention or circumstance. The title refers to the Challenger expedition of 1872-76, the discoveries of which laid the foundations of modern oceanography. The exhibition includes a newly commissioned series of large-scale paintings of microfossils brought back from the Antarctic plate following Robert Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910, and now held at the Natural History Museum in London. These are presented alongside: La morfologia del paisaje determina sus vistas (The Morphology of the Landscape Determines its Views, 2011), an installation composed of drawings and a fired clay bas relief of canyons in Southern Brazil; and a hand-made replica of a graphic telescope, an early 19th century optical instrument. Kopelman has worked with outdated curiosities such as this for a number of years, keen to rediscover how they gave rise to particular conventions of seeing and ways of interpreting the natural world.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events and workshops taking place at Gasworks and at the Natural History Museum, London.
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