The Sublunary World exhibition at The Baldwin Gallery brings together sculpture by Royal Academician Tim Shaw together with the shape-changing photography of Canadian David Ellingsen and the self portraiture of Plains Cree Canadian Meryl McMaster.
Tim Shaw RA, known for his immersive installations (from the vast oil and rebar Casting a Dark Democracy to the AI sculpture, Breakdown Clown) has been described by art critic Mark Hudson as ‘one of the great storytellers of British art,’ creating an extraordinary ‘tension between tradition and nowness, between solidity and nightmarish breakdown’. In The Sublunary World, these tensions multiply when Middle World figures in bronze and resin – revealing a classical prowess reminiscent of Rodin and a contemporary scope that is primal, political and fundamentally ‘other’– meet the surrealist-environmentalism of Ellingsen and the postcolonial self-creations of McMaster.
David Ellingsen is an environmentalist and archivist artist. His Anthropocene series is inspired by the proposed redefinition of our current geological period, based on global evidence that Earth's natural systems have been irrevocably altered by human activity. Ellingsen depicts skeletal remains, adrift on a black background, which act as both a warning and a sign of hope. His Future Imperfect series displays the same ambiguity: the replication of the naked male body in landscape evokes both new-born and corpse, animal and mineral, and the intimate and expansive.
Meryl McMaster is a sculptural-photographer-cum-performance artist who pits hybrid inheritances and constructed identities – Indigenous, European, female – against the immediacy of the lived body in the natural world. Like Ellingsen, she inserts and distorts her own body inside a landscape at once ‘natural’ and ‘betwixt’. She expresses her ‘bi-cultural heritage as a synergistic strength’ rather than ‘a struggle between opposites’. In Avian Wanderer, she rides a bicycle through the planes, while birds fly from her head. In Aphoristic Currents, her head is imprisoned in a massive Victorian ruff, constructed from newspapers which entirely fill the frame. In Brumal Tattoo, she is seen bloodied and exuberant and halfsubsumed by a massive drum, referencing both the European use of 'field music’ to control troops in battle, and the beating of the drum that, in her indigenous tradition, represents the beating of the heart.
Works by Shaw, Ellingsen and McMaster meet in the realm of the contemporary-primal and the organic imagination.