In league with the Divine: Catherine McNeil takes centre stage of our May issue, dressed in couture surrounded by a hedonistic court in this exclusive film by Jeff Bark, styled by senior fashion editor Robbie Spencer. McNeil is the Australian model going through her own renaissance, a fixture of all the top tier AW13 catwalks from New York to Paris, walking in nearly 50 shows. Yet away from the camera, she deflects costume drama, telling Dazed: "My style is very simple. Lots of black tights, flats are a must and a bright sweater here and there." Modesty's appealing when your day job deals with the sublime.
"What do we carry with us in our bones? Literally, and metaphorically?
Neither clearly baneful nor benign, this work is intended to mirror our complex relationship to our own nature(s), and the peculiar concept of separateness, of dominion, over Nature.
As the ultimate expression of both physical sensation and emotional sentiment,(eg.: "I feel it in my bones") bone is the absolute reductive essence of both life, and death. Initially made of living cells, evolving, incorporating evidence of how we lived, the material itself embodies a latent narrative.
The wearable pieces combine found materials, delicately carved florals with rough fragments of skull, teeth or antler forming an uneasy ornamental idiom. This aggregate of visceral and intellectual, raw and refined, drapes the shoulders, in nearly direct contact with the collarbones of the wearer. The re-appropriated floral motifs seem an incongruous remembrance, a grasping at permanence in a material that reinforces the reality of impermanence.
Unnatural Histories: Flourish
My recent body of work from 2007, Unnatural Histories, delved into our precarious, at times, contentious, relationship with nature. We admire it, we attempt to collect, contain, and regulate it. Yet somehow we see ourselves as separate from it, beyond its reach and influence. In these objects the rift is visible in vines refusing containment, growth that confounds expectations. Branches sprout blossoms that return your gaze. Ornamental frameworks evolve into tendrils. Deliberate arrangements of flora and fauna, mineral and vegetal, ornamental and intrinsic, coalesce as hybrids that refer to the remarkable ability of nature to adapt and evolve in any circumstance.
Down to the bone:
Used literally to express definitive physical sensation and emotional sentiment, (e.g.: “feel it in my bones” or “bone weary”) bone is considered the absolute reductive essence of our physical selves. Bones linger, sometimes discovered centuries later. While bones seem permanent, they evolve like any cell with an assigned function, bone will break down and re-form, and incorporate evidence of what we ate, how we worked, injuries, traumas, illnesses, and environmental conditions during our lifetime. Lead, copper and iron, among other metals, bind to our bones as obscure mementos of our experiences. What if these amalgams were to flourish and blur physical boundaries?
My imagery is derived from my examination of the structures of plant and animal life, from the plainly visible down to microscopic patterns of growth in nature. What I found was a system of rigid elemental principles with a remarkably vast potential for invention and adaptation, that also lends itself to powerful visual metaphors. Each of the pieces fit into one of three powers of magnitude; hand sized (10-1), cellular(10-5 to 10-8), or atomic scale(10-10). The results are oddly metaphoric, unnatural histories, that embody both a peculiar passion for, and contentious relationship with, nature itself. My hope is that in a moment of visceral delight, or simply curiosity perhaps one might reclaim a sense of wonder, as to the purpose of such meticulous arrangements.
Flourish, from 2008, is a continuation of this theme. In this second chapter, the hybrids are not just cross-species, but cross discipline as well. Flora and fauna thrive and outgrow containment metaphorically and literally. The jewelry object is an outgrowth of the painting and reaches past the two dimensional plane. The ornament extends beyond the wearable object and into the picture plane, stones are set directly into the paintings and frames themselves.
These are portraits of unintended cultivars. While neither clearly baneful nor benign, the results are oddly metaphoric. Branches bear fruit of bone and iron. Bones house seeds and grow leaves. The paintings and frames embody a peculiar romanticized vision of nature at the same time betray a very human passion to possess nature itself. My hope is that in a moment of visceral delight, or simply curiosity perhaps one might reclaim a sense of wonder, as to the purpose of such meticulous arrangements."
“Art goes on in your head. If you said something interesting, that might be a title for a work of art and I’d write it down. Art comes from everywhere. It’s your response to your surroundings. There are on-going ideas I’ve been working out for years, like how to make a rainbow in a gallery. I’ve always got a massive list of titles, of ideas for shows, and of works without titles.”
Erik Madigan Heck is a New York-based photographer. These bold, colourful images blur the border between photography and illustration.
Stat tuned!!! :-)