The art of taxidermy is inextricably linked with sentiment and longing. It supersedes death and destruction and exposes the desires and fantasies surrounding human relationships with and within the natural world. By interfering with the inevitable path towards dissolution it preserves and immortalises the beauty of life and death. This notion is central to the work of Melbourne-based artist Julia deVille whose practice is informed by the Renaissance, Baroque and Victorian art and ideas of ‘memento mori’.
deVille provides a contemporary take on the taxidermy art form as her jewel-encrusted, ethically sourced, stuffed animals debunk the glorification of the trophy-hunting culture and its wall-mounting rituals and dismiss the archived strange and curious specimens stored in repositories or cabinets of curiosities. Her sculptural assemblages create interplay between process and materials challenging our disregard for, and consumption of, both wild and domesticated fauna. These creatures – rats, baby alpacas, stillborn deer, lion cubs, calves and bunny rabbits, to name a few – are personified through the adornment of diamonds, pearls, rubies, feathers and various costume. They are given new life in staged scenarios: a piglet weighed on antique scales, birds and mice nestled in antique jewellery boxes or spoons, puppies curled up in antique silver goblets, or kittens named Caesar riding antique silver and ivory chariots; some mockingly served on ceramic and silver platters.
In ‘Wholeness and the Implicit Order’, deVille creates an immersive sensory environment using sound, smell, tactility and optical illusion to explore consciousness and reality. The exhibition showcases her beaded dead animals – a zebra and infant giraffe adorned with headpieces, accessories and studded hooves, the latter with a bedazzled bottom or #pearlbum as deVille playfully tagged it on Instagram – alongside holographic replicas within virtual surroundings, contrasting the artist’s signature handcrafted aesthetic with three-dimensional technologies.
deVille’s themes of consciousness, death and our relationship with the natural world are underlined with the theories of quantum physicist David Bohm whose publication, ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ (1980), attempts to understand the nature of reality and consciousness as a coherent whole – an ultra-holistic cosmic view he supports with holographic analogies concluding that ‘everything is enfolded into everything’. The implicate (or ‘implicit’) order implies mutual participation of everything with everything – the subtext to deVille’s latest series of work. According to the gallery, her new works ‘act as tangible metaphors for implicit interconnectedness of all things and the importance of treating all life with respect; beliefs that form the core of [her] practice.’
Linden New Art’s Victorian architecture is the perfect canvas for deVille’s computer-simulated creation in which she reimagines its original 19th-century rooms with modern interior design and stylised props. A recently renovated space, deVille performs her own makeover with the assistance of artist Leslie Rice in producing paintings on black velvet to hang alongside deVille’s regenerated Ark inhabitants. Their footings are lodged in place by resin cases made by sculptor Kate Rhold, and their virtual pairings are accentuated by beautifully designed framework. Further contributions include Josh Weatherlake’s (Adipocere) hand embroideries, Adam Wallacavage’s surreal octopus chandeliers and candelabras with Art Nouveau-esque motifs and New Zealand stoner carver, Jo Sheehan, who sculpted marble knickers for the exhibition while New York-based artist and holographic specialist, Dr Mrongovius worked in collaboration with deVille to develop her intermediate photographs. Together they create an elaborate, augmented world, an afterlife, in which deVille’s creatures and the viewer can go on living.
Linden New Art
Until 4 November, 2018