Claire Morgan Stages Stunning Meditations on Impermanence at Fondation Fernet Branca

Morgan’s installations with taxidermy and organic materials tackle life and death.

Claire Morgan, Building, 2014,
Photo: © Galerie Karsten Greve
Claire Morgan, The Owl and the Pussycat, 2014Photo: © Achim Kukulies

Claire Morgan, The Owl and the Pussycat (2014)
Photo: Achim Kukulies

A recent study published last week shows that the Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway, and our actions are in all likelyhood the driving force behind it. It is with this in mind that the viewer encounters the works of London-based Irish-born artist Claire Morgan at the Fondation Fernet Branca in Alsace.

Spread across the entire second level of the foundation’s building, the exhibition includes Morgan’s impossibly intricate sculptures, as well as her works on paper and canvas.

Morgan uses taxidermy animals, insects, dried seeds, plants, and found objects to stage stunning installations that deliver meditations on the impermanence of both life and nature.

Grace and poetry reside in her work, alongside lifelessness and dread. Time seems to be frozen, yet the artworks suggest the projection of a future calamity that would cast living things in listless stasis.

Claire Morgan, Gone to Seed, 2011, Photo: © Jordan Hutchings

Claire Morgan, Gone to Seed (2011) 
Photo: Jordan Hutchings

Suspended from the ceiling, as if to suggest colored clouds and tight swarms, Morgan’s fragile hanging installations reflect the chasm between society’s urge to manipulate nature and its dependance on it for survival.

Can we continue to pursue our desire to create order, when we know the expense at which it comes? Living beings, nature itself, and even the geological makeup of the Earth have been so altered by man’s behaviour that a the new anthropocene age—the “age of man”—has been announced by scientists.

Will future generations only encounter common species in books and museum displays, like our generation knows extinct creatures like the dodo?

Morgan plays on several elements such as time, gravity, degeneration, decay, and agency to explore our relationship to mortality and our hubris. “Exploring the physicality of animals, death, and illusions of permanence in the work is my way of trying to come to terms with these things myself,” Morgan has said of her own practice.

She states, “my attention has been drawn to the cheap distractions we choose to place in our immediate vicinity, with which to screen us from the overwhelming facts; that we are nothing; that our only certainty as individuals is a life, of unspecified duration, and then a death.”

Claire Morgan, Building, 2014 Photo: © Galerie Karsten Greve

Claire Morgan, Building (2014) 
Photo: courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve

A swarm of bees captured mid flight, a cat playing with a sphere of seeds, taxidermy birds caught between clouds—the show as a whole evokes a reality in which energy has been solidified.

Eveyrthing is suspended, and even the thin nylon threads from which the installations are hanging serve to complete the impression of precarity rather than disturb the illusion of weightlessness. The viewer is aware of their role in the fantastical staged situations, but this awareness only strengthens the impact.

A melancholy emanates from her work as it comes to question our own disenchantment. Some viewers might take this show’s arresting sculptural situations as meditations on life and death. Others might find in it a call to action.

Claire Morgan, Building, 2014, Photo: © Galerie Karsten Greve

Claire Morgan, Building (2014) (detail)
Photo: Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve

“Claire Morgan” is on view at Fondation Fernet Branca in Saint-Louis, France from June 14 to November 15, 2015. 

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