When you hear the phrase ‘garden of earthly delights’, you might think of something expansive and overgrown, colourful and breathing with life. Perhaps a sort of mixture between a Beatrix Potter landscape of rolling hills with some kind of lush and exotic idea of Eden.
Kate Dunn’s exhibition is full of intricate porcelain sculptures of plants, but her dainty portrayal of species that should be green and bursting with colour are instead white and sterile. Like the bleached corpse of a dead piece of coral when you know it should be vibrant and alive, they are beautiful but a little disturbing in their unnaturalness.
Metalab, the Surry Hills space hosting the exhibition describes it as: ‘influenced by the 19th century post Darwin penchant for collecting, drawing and displaying the natural world. Like pinning down butterflies or beetles, there is a macabre quality to our desire to touch and consume the fragile.’
This exhibition is the culmination of a project between Dunn, an artist and academic at the University of Sydney, and Dr Caroline Lehmann, a Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. It explores research into the decimation of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands, the basin Sydney has encroached on and destroyed over the years through a combination of climate change and urbanization. The sculptures are like pressed flowers in the pages of a book; lovely, yet shadows of the real thing that may soon be lost.
Sep 6-29, Metalab, 10B Fitzroy Pl, Surry Hills, free, 8354 1398 metalab.com.au