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The Forest As An Alternate Kingdom | 2018

The Forest As An Alternate Kingdom reflects a search for refuge from the pervasiveness and obligations of the digital and social realm. I accepted a residency on the rural island of Fyn in Denmark last September (2017), where I had the possibility to live and make work for a month without electricity or internet, enjoying a simpler existence, eating fruits and vegetables that were grown in the garden and spending evenings by the fire with only candles for light. It emphasized for me a need for separation from the duty of the social realm, both in its digital form, as well as in real life. I wanted to immerse myself in nature, in the forest, which I saw as the antithesis to the cultural sphere of the city.
This series of paintings started out as an attempt to portray that space, an almost mythological understanding of nature as a place uncultivated by human hands. I imagined the works as expressing the need for sanctuary in a displaced state of being and as reflecting a need to maintain basic physical connections, both between humans as well as between human and nature.
In the finished paintings, however, this initial train of thought and its manifestations does not appear so present. In its place is a scenario that looks and feels highly artificial and constructed. Sickly pastel tones, vast black voids and bizarre multi-coloured abstract shapes offer transportation into an alternate realm, where auras are visible and perspective and light appear to follow other rules.  The blur between 2 and 3 dimensional objects within the paintings reveals an unknown world and sense of insecurity. The peculiarity of the creatures is suggestive of a kind of chaos and disarray; The fact that this fictitious forest is inhabited by animals that normally do not belong there gives the impression of an underlying fear, of what was thought stable and solid beginning to unravel and dissolve. The portrayed bodies resemble manikins, action figures, toys with unnatural and awkward poses. There is a fakeness to them, as if they are floating in a parallel virtual landscape. Nature is present, but not as the contrast to the cultural and populated world, instead the natural elements that can be found in the paintings are mainly the result of human interaction with nature.
Therefore, and contrary to my first intention, this series of paintings is not the natural alternative to an aggressively pervading social reality. Rather it evokes the association of a further fake realm, difficult to break away from. The desperation to nevertheless attempt that escape seeps through these works and rather than having a tranquil effect, that an escape to nature would produce, the works are unnerving, as they seem to suck the viewer into yet another artificial and highly constructed reality from which the way out is not easily discernible.

Written by Jill Tegan Doherty
Edited by Laura Haaber Ihle

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