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The Shape of Death | 2017

The Shape of Death is a series of work delving into the ambiguity surrounding death, questioning the overlap between the corporeal and ethereal states and confronting our diverse and contrasting attitudes towards death, both with regard to humans as well as other forms of life. The exhibition forms a stasis, where the infliction of death is juxtaposed with the preservation of being. It encapsulates a sense of confusion and fear, balanced out against a more peaceful interpretation.


Death is an inevitable fact of life and is perceived in a myriad of ways. It can invite religious rituals or allow for intricate scientific study of the body; it can be seen as opening up portals to other realms or merely as an end to life. Death continues to remain an issue of taboo within our society. How do people deal with the loss of loved ones and the fore coming of their own death? The Shape of Death applies a sense of physicality and substance to an asomatous state, examining how the concept of death can shape our mentality.


Through the study of conservation and preservation of once living beings we can attempt to distinguish the entity of death itself. Whether it is through religious or scientific avenues, death can become an object for study or a catalyst for worship. There can be a stillness, tranquility and sense of calm embodied within death, a beauty encapsulated within the shapes that it leaves behind. After death the only thing that remains tangible is the shape of the body, a now empty shell, the shape of the mind and spirit become harder to trace.


The series reflects the fact that we are presented with death in our everyday lives, most often in connection with animals. One way that contemporary societies manage to face this is by turning subjects into objects for consumption, where the reference to the life of the subject has been removed, both from reality as well as from our consciousness. It is possible that this constant, yet detached, exchange with death furthers a certain perspective, which spills into other realms of life.


The paintings in this series confront these questions, exploring the role of context for perception. The work addresses the shapes and emotional connotations that death entails in a contemporary setting. The exhibition uses a soundscape in order for the viewer to become immersed within the imagery through heightened senses. This forces a more somatic reaction to the work and creates a potentially uncomfortable territory.


The work is a culmination of questions about what it means to be alive, what it means to be immersed in the world and how the binary of destruction and order that life and death entails can be interpreted artistically.


Written by Jill Tegan Doherty

The exhibition was in collaboration with Tom McCarthy (founder of Baby Forest) who created a sound installation to accompany the work:

Stasis | Tom McCarthy 

Mediation bowls, Charcoal sticks, Granular synthesis, Analogue Monophonic Synthesisers

Stasis - Tom McCarthy
00:00 / 00:00
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