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ArtDaily, Victoria Scott, Splice – We begin this story as voyeurs to Caroline Rothwell’s botanical theatre – an enticing array of sumptuous sculptures, works on paper and animation – the beautiful and the bizarre. With eyes wide open we traverse time, land and sea.
Caroline Rothwell’s latest exhibition, Splice, at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, takes the moment of first contact in Botany Bay, Australia to embark on a voyage of exploration into time past. Rothwell poetically ‘splices’ this historic moment with our contemporary consciousness, creating sculptures and works on paper that enable us to think about the colonising imperative of recent centuries and our compulsion to master natural forces. With sculptures that border on the surreal and the anthropomorphic, Rothwell pushes us to consider our own response to such issues.
When exotic animals and unknown flora & fauna were first discovered and documented by European artists and explorers in 17th and 18th centuries, a lush language of printed imagery evolved. Joseph Banks and his contemporaries transformed drawings of specimens into exquisite engravings, tokens of exploration that provided a visual record to new worlds that for many Europeans seemed imaginary or magical.
Bringing back over 1300 unrecorded species, Banks commissioned over 700 engravings between 1772 and 1784 to form the Florilegium, produced by the British Museum to document the botanical treasures from Cook’s First Voyage.
In Untitled 335, 317, 72 and 7 (2019), Rothwell modifies works from the Florilegium by taking a scalpel to these delicate forms, slicing the image to entwine a pink tongue, hand painted in watercolour, amongst the foliage. With the precision of a surgeon, the artist carves up the past and leaves it wide open. The English pastoral idyll is interrupted.
What compels an artist take a scalpel to such a perfect artefact of history, unfolds as we move around and across the space. With sinuous form the tongue advances and serpent-like slithers across the space, multiplying – interrupting the beauty, allowing us to question the narratives history presents us with. In Splice, we are cajoled, in the most poetic way, to question what humans have done to this earth since the Enlightenment era.
Coated in the liquid shimmer of shiny gloss paint, Rothwell’s sculptures are otherworldly and fantastical, embodying a sense of wonder, that first point of discovery, exotic and collectible. Symbolic of imperial voracity, the tongue writhes and twists amongst Rothwell’s sculptures, three of which incorporate the botanical species from the works on paper.
With an apparent disregard to what exists before, in Spade (2019) the greedy tongue ascends a garden shovel to dig the earth, to expand and to build. In Blue Cabinet (2019), a multi-coloured plant based on the species depicted in Untitled 317 (2019), is contained within a glossy blue cabinet: perhaps a metaphor for the quest to control indigeneity, or for the human desire to assert power over its organic environment. The use of “Untitled” for the works on paper acknowledges the colonial imperative to rename land and species, allowing one to think about indigenous methods for disseminating knowledge and the multiplicity of different cultural modes for recording and retelling history.
Parallel to the voyages of discovery, Europe transformed its architectural landscape into a glittering epoch. The Baroque and Rococo periods looked back to the Classical Age for ideal images of beauty and reinterpreted these in the most decorative of ways. The more extreme and lavish the display of ornamentation, the more power the empire seemed to portray. They created a world that literally shone in ostentation, infinite scrolls that emulated nature’s splendour. In Carbon emission 1, (2019), Rothwell animates a stunning baroque cartouche, as one of her gas emission paintings softly breathes; its curvilinear tendrils mimicking shells and fronds of exotic plants. A corporeal energy exudes from it as a furling leaf exhales from the top and a seething body-like branch twists and turns at its base.
The Enlightenment task of classifying, collecting and recording was an attempt to find new parameters of definition to solve and understand the world. Maps were plotted, a history was written, and a collective, yet one-sided, memory evolved. The year of the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival in Australia is a timely reminder to continue exploring these past ‘truths’, and, with the help of Rothwell’s Splice, we harness the open-eyed sense of wonder to continue challenging our past and to accept we cannot always ‘know’ and comprehend the complexity of all cultures and all lands.
We would like to acknowledge and pay respects to the Gadigal and Bidjigal clan who traditionally occupied the Sydney coast and the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal language group who traditionally occupied the Southern Sydney area. Victoria Scott, 2019
Femmage on view until 1 September 2019… pays homage to an earlier generation of Feminists, including artist Miriam Schapiro, who used the word to describe the use of traditional women’s techniques in contemporary art making.
For Caroline Rothwell, imagery derived from her archive of personal photographs and news clippings is incised into black PVC that hangs from the wall like an industrial quilt.
The materiality and experimentation inherent in all of these works is matched with each artist’s keen sense of social, political and personal enquiry.
Femmage includes Sally Smart, Sara Contos, Jacqui Stockdale, Julie Fragar, Annabelle Collett, Caroline Rothwell, Ali Gumillya Baker, Faye Rosas Blanch.
Caroline Rothwell, Climatic, Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial, photo Saul Steed, AGSA
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Art Month are delighted to present artist, Caroline Rothwell, recipient of the 2016 Loti Smorgon Sculpture Terrace Commission in conversation with Blair French, Director of Curatorial & Digital at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Saturday, 16 March 2019, 11am – Noon
Sculpture Terrace, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Caroline Rothwell investigates how ideas and beliefs have shaped our contemporary world. Her work explores systems of human interaction relating to time, nature, history and science. This interest has led into research around the colonisation of climate and representations of the future.
Rothwell’s commission for the Loti Smorgon Sculpture Terrace – ‘Composer’ – extends this particular interest in both the causes and impacts of climate change through scale and materials new to the artist’s practice. Poetic and whimsical, ‘Composer’ is a 6-metre high, kinetic sculpture that explores current issues around energy consumption. The work acts as a wind turbine where the air flowing over the Sculpture Terrace is harnessed to create light. The sculpture is powered by a pinwheel – an up-scaled version of a child’s toy, usually propelled by their breath, or by the wind. Attached to the mast of the sculpture is a windswept female figure, operating as a weather vane.
Telescoping 1 + 2, ink, copper on Belgium linen, 200 x 155cm
Solo show on view until 14th October
Saturday 22nd September at 3pm, please join curator Nina Miall and Caroline Rothwell at Ex Situ, currently on view at VerghisArt, 32 St George St, London W1
In Ex Situ, artist Caroline Rothwell assembles an imaginary botanical archive. Taking the form of wall-mounted and freestanding sculptures, Rothwell’s archive draws on the materials and instruments of 19th-century botany, mediated by the technological revolution of the 20th century, to offer a visual register of humanity’s impact on the natural world today.
Ex Situ exhibition catalogue features texts: Ex Situ In Situ by Nina Miall, curator and Plant Matters by Dr Nicholas Thomas, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Retort 2 + 3, 2017, bronze, laboratory glassware, water, Britannia metal; sculpture in two parts, 217 x 84 x 84 cm Tasmanian Landscape (Urpflanze), 2017, Bushfire charcoal, vehicle emission, acrylic binder medium, canvas, copper, wood, marine ply, Dimensions: 180 x 120 x 5cm
Make Known: The Exquisite Order of Infinite Variation features the work of artists and designers who engage with invisible or imperceptible phenomena such as atmospheric conditions, patterns of occupation and inhabitation, ground stability and fluctuations of ground water, movement, energy flows, fluid dynamics and biological systems. The search and discovery of an emergent order in this phenomenon presents a unique insight into ways of apprehending and shaping the world.
Artists: Julie Louise Bacon, Rina Bernabei and Kelly Freeman, Tricia Flanagan and Raune Frankjaer, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, Tina Fox, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Danièle Hromek, Anthony McInneny and Beatriz Maturana Cossio, Ainslie Murray, Perdita Phillips, Caroline Rothwell, Katrina Simon and Simon Twose, Kurt Sorensen and Grant Stevens.
Curator: Eva Rodriguez Riestra, Until 8 September, UNSW Galleries Image: Silversalt Photograhy