Curated by Paul Carey-Kent
Six artists: Eric Butcher, Katherine Murphy, Giulia Ricci, D J Roberts, Marie Harnett, Kristian Evju.
The Garden Room is characterised by an verdurous wallpaper, in keeping with its giving out directly into the club’s courtyard garden. ‘Intensity’ starts from that point and from the growing view that plants – as is made evident by the threat of global warming – deserve more recognition, philosophically and environmentally, than they have historically received.
That is in line with Emanuele Coccia’s argument in his recent book La Vie des Plantes (2016). After all, plants are the agents which produce the atmospheric oxygen necessary to human and animal life. Moreover, it is only plants which can exploit the primary source of energy available on earth: it is their transformation of sunshine into stored biomass which provides the basis for animal development. Coccia also praises their lifelong growth; their ability to bridge the aerial and subterranean worlds, mediating agent between earth and sky; the variation and seduction of flowers; and even their communal sexual life – as ‘with animals, sex normally takes place between two individuals of the same species. Whereas with plants, sex is a cosmic event. It makes use of other animals, bees, meteorological agents, like rain and wind. It’s a beautiful thing that to have sex, plants need more than two individuals. They need a whole world’.
That may not sound directly relevant to art, but Coccia also says that ‘plants have no hands with which to manipulate the world, and yet it would be difficult to find defter agents for the construction of forms’. He explains that the seed is traditionally a form of rationality, as it exemplifies a force able to draw forth incredible forms from matter. In his words ‘matter itself seeks, invents, produces its forms of life and rationality simultaneously. And the force that allows this was often called artistic force. In Greek, there is only one word for art, technique, and reason’.
The six artists here don’t illustrate Coccia’s text, but all have made works which refer – directly or indirectly – to the botanic. Three make works which look abstract, but which introduce organic forms, rhythms and references into apparently mechanic and geometric processes in which labour and repetition are prominent. The other three use figuration drawn from a broad spread of culturally significant sources to set up parallels between human and vegetal activity. All six bring a particular intensity of focus and labour to the small formats required by the space.