March 11 - April 28, 2005
Isabel Young's work surfaces from a fascination with the underwater world and the animal kingdom since they are separate and remote to our own environment and our experience as humans. Through looking at the artificial environments of zoological gardens, Young's work explores the condition of the contemporary landscape and our relationship with the world around us. Believing that zoos continue to exist because of our innate desire to know and understand nature, much of Young's work is developed from close observations of the “interior landscapes” of the zoo and the public's reactions to these living exhibitions. The artist is particularly interested in the display mechanisms of the zoo since they form both a physical and psychological barrier distancing us from nature, as well as with the juxtaposition, that is ignited by these display mechanisms, between the simulated “wilderness” and its host: the city, the very heart of urban culture.
As well as generating work through observations of wildlife, Young also works directly from elaborate purpose built “sets” that she constructs in her studio using collected objects, artefacts and fabrics, as well as organic material and animals such as fish, octopus and plant matter. Consequentially each piece takes on the appearance of a hybrid space that traverses the natural environment of landscape painting and the cubby-hole like, and highly structured space of still life painting.
The work engages with issues surrounding exhibition and zoo architecture, artificial environments and containment, and also the nature of animals. The paintings reference the artificial environments of the zoo, as well as other man-made constructed situations, and ultimately examine these false, staged meetings between civilisation and nature. The animals, animal behaviour, and our relationship and communication with the non-human world, are paramount. Creatures engage in animal activities, both natural and unnatural, within artificial surroundings and where humankind is a spectator.