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EROTIC ECOLOGIES AT APT GALLERY


Installation images courtesy of Benjamin Deakin


Upon entering February’s exhibition at APT Gallery, one's attention is immediately drawn to Rebecca Partridge's large Sky Painting, where a deep indigo gradually transitions into a dusty pink ombre. There is a stillness captured in the harmonious change of hues that reminds of the very early morning; a slight light seeping into inky darkness with a hint of an impending dawn. This serves as the initial focal point, captivating viewers from a distance with its imposing scale and subtle blend of pleasing colours. Whereas the small dark canvas positioned adjacent to it prompts a viewer to approach closely to discern its intimate details. In this piece, a scattering of delicate purple wildflowers on slender stems emerge from dark grasses and seem to catch an artificial light. There is a vibrant energy and wild beauty in this scene which contrasts with the serenity of the previous image.


Rebecca Partridge, Sky Painting 8, 2020 and Wildflowers, 2023


The work is a fitting introduction to Erotic Ecologies, an exhibition which draws its title from the bio-philosopher Andreas Weber’s 2017 manifesto Matter and Desire: An Erotic Ecology, urging readers to live with a perspective from ‘the inside of life’ by paying attention to the corporeal experience of being alive rather than as analysing machines standing apart from the world. The drive toward both attachment and autonomy is the fulfilment of what he calls an ‘erotic encounter, an encounter of meaning through contact, an encounter of being oneself through the significance of others’.


Across the room, Sarah Kate Wilson’s piece Deep Magic (2024) and Catherine Ferguson’s intricate Schematic Objects II (2023), too share an engagement with nature, but their unconventional compositions deviate from a steady literal interpretation, requiring a viewer, as Weber encouraged, to engage with the natural beyond a purely analytical or representational standpoint. Wilson’s dynamic scribbles emerge through layers of dark black paint, revealing turquoise wax atop the shimmering hues of holographic card. This interplay cultivates a cosmic ambiance that is beautifully dark. In contrast, Ferguson's artwork unfolds against a backdrop dominated by murky brown hues, characterised by dense and interwoven brushstrokes reminiscent of coiled layers of worms or rope. Atop this textured foundation, bold sections featuring a light shade and jug are arranged in a collage-like fashion. The dim colours and odd layered images create a noticeable departure from the pleasant feelings conjured by Partridge’s pieces, leaving the viewer with an indescribable and stirring feeling. Initially seeming out of place, this very characteristic is what seamlessly aligns them with the uneasy darkness emanating from Wilson’s beautiful compilations.  


 Sarah Kate Wilson, Deep Magic, 2024, Catherine Ferguson, Schematic Objects II, 2023


In a conversation with one of Wilson’s colleagues from the Chelsea School of Art, it was revealed that the intensity of feeling in Wilson's Deep Magic canvases was inspired by her experience of childbirth, a personal connection which adds an additional layer of depth, inviting viewers to consider the profound and personal narratives intertwined with the natural elements depicted in the exhibition. The artworks in Erotic Ecologies not only showcase individual expressions but collectively meditate on and manifest Weber’s philosophy. This exhibition, inspired by Weber's advocacy for embracing a perspective from within life itself, boldly asserts that nature is the profound wellspring of both sensual and aesthetic encounters. Inviting viewers to delve into the diverse elements that compose the tapestry of human experience, the exhibition goes beyond portraying the natural world as a subject of analysis. Instead, it positions nature as an inherent source of profound connection and meaning, mirroring Weber’s call for an immersive and engaged relationship with the world.

 

In a narrower space leading to the final room, Eirini Boukla's Untitled artwork, consists of mohair and alpaca yarn nets hung over cardboard boxes, that resonate thematically with Partridge's ombre pieces. Boukla's exploration of depth and dimension in the interaction of colours on painted cardboard boxes highlights their materiality. The juxtaposition of colours creates visually striking depths, prompting a viewer to contemplate the origin and nature of each component within the composition. Notably, Boukla’s use of textiles invites reflection on how materials exhibit altered properties under different weather conditions, a fact observed by Boukla during the exhibition. This exploration of materials and their responsiveness aligns with Weber’s philosophy, as he posits that nature serves as the source of sensual and aesthetic experiences. Boukla’s work reflects an engagement with Weber’s concept of an ‘erotic ecology,’ where the intertwining desires for attachment and autonomy foster a profoundly meaningful connection with the world. Moreover, Boukla’s installation echoes Weber’s call for a departure from traditional paradigms, urging a more immersive and engaged connection with the natural world. The emphasis on embracing the materiality of life, acknowledging tangible aspects, and recognising the dynamic interplay between organisms and their environments aligns seamlessly with both Boukla’s work and the broader themes inspired by Weber’s philosophy within the exhibition.


As we progress through the corridor-like space, Boukla's larger cardboard boxes positioned at the back beckon us into the room. The deep red mohair net stretched across a warm yellow box commands attention, while the subtle pink net atop a blue box invites closer examination to discern its nuanced presence. Boukla deliberately manipulates the contrasting and harmonious colours, skilfully playing with the depth created in this carefully arranged composition. In this context, Partridge’s artworks offer a subtle contrast with lighter and gentler transitions between shades of blue and white, reminiscent of a serene sky on a warm day. Yet, the wash of colour atop her non-primed canvases also evokes the dying technique employed by Boukla. In sharp contrast to both Partridge and Boukla, Ferguson's Film Colour painting presents a striking departure. This artwork features collages scenes of an angel flying, a yellow tablecloth adored with a tray of lemons, a possibly Sicilian scene, and a hand-drawn world map, all layered over what appears to be a grey wall. The stark difference challenges a viewer with its unexpected juxtapositions, directing our attention to the materiality of the piece.

 

Agnès Houghton-Boyle is a critic and programmer based in London. Her writing features in Talking Shorts Magazine and Fetch London. 

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