until 10.06. | #39011ARTatBerlin | Galerie Soy Capitán shows from 28. April 2023 the exhibition “The Three Living and The Three Dead ” of the artist Paloma Proudfoot.
“There is a sense of softness, of vulnerability, despite the hardness of the glazed clay.”
Philomena Epps on Proudfoot’s work
The evolution of Paloma Proudfoot’s new exhibition, The Three Living and The Three Dead at Soy Capitán, was informed by her research into Medieval cultural traditions surrounding death. In this period, death was often configured as a personified force, able to interact with the living. In the fresco The Triumph of Death (1440-5) at Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, death is shown as an animated skeleton, depicted riding a skeletal horse through a rabble of people, with the characters in the crowd displaying a broad spectrum of reactions, from utter terror, bewilderment, and oblivious apathy. The legend of ‘The Three Living and The Three Dead’—from which Proudfoot’s exhibition and central piece takes its title—first appeared in the thirteenth century, with the moral tale functioning as an extension of the popular memento mori motif. In the story, three noblemen encounter three ecclesiastic decaying corpses in a forest. The corpses reproach the noblemen for their behaviour, warning them about the fleeting transience of earthly existence, and how their wealth and status will be meaningless in the afterlife without salvation.
The exhibition comprises three sequential frieze scenes, dismantling the concept of the body as a single integrated entity, instead representing intermediary figures made from an assembly of parts. Corporeal boundaries are blurred, dissolving the margins between the mortal and the dead, the internal and the external. Organs are revealed, the oesophagus and stomach made visible. Flesh is opened up, unfurling like an elaborate garment, with skin and cloth becoming indistinguishable through this visceral unravelling of the body. There is a sense of softness, of vulnerability, despite the hardness of the glazed clay, with Proudfoot’s particular palette evocative of natural vegetable dyes. A pair of disembodied forearms, with sinewy muscle sprouting into tendrils of green shoots, places their hands on the shoulders of one of the central characters, as if the dead is soothing the living through the gesture of touch. These exchanges of love and dependence are emphasised elsewhere: to hold someone, to clothe them, to feel their presence in their absence. Each body is shown as connected, reliant somehow on one another. Their shared flow of somatic energy is visually rendered through the mauve and plum hues that radiates like heat through each of their disparate bluish or green forms.
This mutual reliance is shown not just between the figures but also gestures towards the surrounding landscape. Two sets of oversized eyes peer over the exhibition, perhaps bloodshot with roots or shining with cat-like iridescence, they are magnified as if about to come under an optician’s assessment. Rope weaves through one figure, an arterial flow circulating and lacing the fragmented limbs together before bleeding out into the surrounding field of dying sunflowers. Fruit flies, most often seen as pests or expendable scientific subjects for testing genetic disorders, are here outsized, magnifying their role in understanding physical inheritance and symbolically rendered as carriers of memory. Encircling two figures in a gentle yet macabre embrace of dissection, their gauze wings are embroidered with drawings from Proudfoot’s notebook.
Opening: Friday, 28. April 2023, 6pm to 9pm
Exhibition dates: Friday, 28. April until Saturday, 10. June 2023To the Gallery
Image Caption: Paloma Proudfoot, The Three Living and The Three Dead (detail), 2022, Photo by Ivo Faber, Courtesy of the Artist and Soy Capitán, Berlin
Exhibition Paloma Proudfoot – Galerie Soy Capitán – Ausstellungen Galerien Berlin | ART at Berlin