We are a way for the cosmos to know itself: Erin Chaplin, Renée Estée, Lanise Howard, Anico Mostert, IyunOla Sanyaolu, Kiriakos Tompolidis, Austin Uzor, Barry Yusufu

25 March - 23 April 2023
We are made of star stuff. The human is just one of the many things that describe what the universe is composed of and we share the same compounds and atomic ingredients that one would find millions of light years away. But we are also, as far as we can tell, unique in our ability to interpret ourselves, what we see, and what we know. There is no topic or aspect of living that artists have not ventured into. The list of human concerns is endless, whether it be nature, politics, space, light, colour, death, history, love, fantasy, or philosophy. The threading line and unifying factor among artists is their role as interpreters.
Materiality and aesthetics are the outcomes of the study and analysis within the artist's practice. The artist observes, questions, and interprets a time-based and context-produced perception of the world. They connect themselves to that which surrounds them. They can be poetic, descriptive, or critical; reminiscent, inventive, or contemplative. Artists give light and a bodily experience to a unique aspect of being human: Our in-depth ability to self-reflect on, not just who we are, but what we are. From the oldest known work of art, the red hand stencils in the Maltravieso cave in Spain made by a Neanderthal; to The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David (1793); and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych (1962), humans have been analysing, contemplating, and interpreting our bodily existence and our symbolic place in the world since as far back as we’ve been able to hold a tool and use colour.
This exhibition presents an international and diverse group of painting positions that explore the body in relation to context. From the most anecdotal, imagined, mythical, or nearing the fantastical, the artists presented take on unique approaches towards possible symbolisms of the figure. It contemplates the human; the vessel that interprets the world, within context. British anthropologist, Mary Douglas wrote, “The bodies are the self and society; sometimes they are so near as to be almost merged; sometimes they are far apart.” While society and perception may set limits upon us, it is the artist that has the ability to bend, mold, and flex those constraints. Create from what is known and produce new worlds for us to journey through. This group exhibition puts forth distinct and varied pictorial approaches and narratives that touch upon nature, psychology, society, fantasy, and culture. While the figure is the comprehensive line, it is by threading contexts, stories, and diverse aesthetic explorations that we may be able to knit a larger picture and foment a better understanding of who and what we are. We are not the centre of the universe but we are, as far as we know, its interpreter. As American cosmologist, Carl Sagan put it, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
*Douglas, Mary. Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology, Barrie & Rockliff, Cresset Press, 1970.