On the day of his father’s death in Melbourne, Douglas White came across a dead bat in the same neighbourhood. The animal must have passed just just hours before, everything about it was still perfect. It was the second body he had encountered that day, which perhaps accounted for the particular fascination and wonder he felt for it. He was particularly drawn to the gossamer thin skin of its wings, curiously stretched and wrinkled around their bony architecture.
Upon returning to London, White began to encounter echoes of this memory in the discarded banana skins on the streets around his home, which seemed to hold the same forms and textures. He began to collect these skins and to recreate this encounter, the half-dried skins uncannily mirroring the stretches, folds and wrinkles in his memory. The resulting works may be seen as intimate and highly personal reflections on loss, in which the artist willingly engages in a process of psychological and material displacement. Skin stands in for skin, and body stands in for body, in the dual processes of preservation and reanimation.
Alongside these works the artist once again channels animal imagery though vegetal matter, this time in the form of an Ox, created out of half-decayed fragments of Opuntia cactus, harvested by the artist on the island of Malta. These once solid and prickly forms are now hollow and brittle, and present a craggy and fragile vision of a beast so associated with male power and strength.
White is a sculptor whose work is and is about, transformation- the transformation of materials, transformed states of being and the transformative potential of objects. He works with the discarded and the lost, seeking both materially and mnemonically to recuperate, and perhaps to fix, in the material form of his work, time and memory – an exorcism incarnate.
This notion of fixing is nowhere more evident than in the new photographic series of ‘Owl’. Each of the four images shows the delicate residue left in dust and grease on a window after an owl flew into it. The collection marks the culmination of many years work, during which time the artist tirelessly investigated and collected such imprints from houses around the UK. Barely visible in daylight, the resulting ethereal residues have an otherworldly quality, fitting for an animal so associated with the spirit realm.
La Patinoire Royale / Galerie Valerie Bach
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