Heavy trees, arms and legs
Nicola Farquhar and Sorawit Songsataya
In partnership with The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū
Venue: The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson
Exhibition preview: Friday 23 April, 5:30pm
Exhibition runs: 24 April – 18 July 2021
‘Heavy trees, arms and legs’ is a line from Rebecca Tamás’ poem Palermo. The weight of limbs—branches, bones, roots, tendons—anchors this exhibition of new works by Nicola Farquhar and Sorawit Songsataya: the idea of gravity as a compositional force that shapes us as living bodies, and connects us with elements in the natural world. As a whole, Heavy trees, arms and legs considers the potential of imagined forms to generate more fluid understandings of the environment we are a part of.
In Farquhar’s oil paintings recurring motifs—eyes, moons, stomachs, wax candles, birds, strawberries—irregular geometric structures and ‘background’ are deeply entangled. Plaster sculptures, often balancing on the canvases they accompany, suggest the dynamic state of all matter, the transformative possibilities of mould, melt, scab and fossil. These works belong to a world in motion, a warming and climatically unstable planet. They hold the urgency of concentrated momentum: volume and weight.
Songsataya’s sculptures are made from limestone, beeswax, fishbones and fake eyelashes, materials that are variously porous, sealant, remnant, useful. Without making a strong distinction between the organic and synthetic, human and nonhuman elements, in these works a relationship exists nonetheless in a material and personal narrative. The artist writes:
"Bones uphold our tissues, muscles, and flesh. Bones also tell of places and people that we come from. Perhaps the skeletal fragments of tiny communities that made up limestones also have offsprings and origins—they must do—as do the network of bees within their working architecture of wax. This kind of lineage of ‘makers’ within the material fascinates me. Beeswax is a prominent material in Thai ritual and custom; every first full moon in November we used to light ceramic lamps around our house’s veranda. I always wondered how the yellow stuff came to be, dipping my finger into the ceramic bowl to see the wax change from transparent to opaque on my skin. I am still drawn to its transformative quality, its plasticity and its fleshiness."
In Tamás’ poem the sense of heaviness occurs in a state of all-consuming physical pleasure, that of the “sea slug with its own containing joy”; of a keen appetite: “eating the moon creamed on brown bread / eating cold green olives one by one”. Heavy trees, arms and legs, too, acknowledges the substantial joy in our relationships with both our physical appetites and the natural world. There is also the heaviness of grief in the recognition that we live in an ecologically compromised world: that contemporary extractive capitalism exists in blunt violation of this relationship. In these works the two senses are held, different forms of weight.
Heavy trees, arms and legs is a continuation of The Physics Room's itinerant programme partnering with public galleries across Te Waipounamu, the South Island to create collaborative exhibitions. This exhibition is a partnership between The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū and The Physics Room.
With thanks to Richard Moss for his generous support of Sorawit Songsataya's project.
Nicola Farquhar lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Recent exhibitions include Listening, twitching, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2020); Superstimulus, Tāmaki Makaurau (2019); A Holotype Heart, Hopkinson Mossman, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington (2018); Folded Eyes, Hopkinson Mossman, Tāmaki Makaurau (2017); and Necessary Distraction: A Painting Show, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2015).
Sorawit Songsataya is a Thai-born artist who lives and works in Te Whanganui-a-tara Wellington. Recent exhibitions include Come up for air, The Lightship, Tāmaki Makaurau (2020); Rumours (mermaid), Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu New Plymouth (2020); The Interior, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2019); Jupiter, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2018); Starling, Artspace Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau (2018) and Soon Enough: Art in Action, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2018).