Thursday, 21 February 2013

Death: A self-portrait

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection contains over 300 artworks and artefacts relating to death from the personal collection of Richard Harris. The exhibition aims to question how artworks can help us to negotiate death. It is divided into five areas and begins with contemplating death in a room showing a series of memento mori. The theme of the second room is the dance of death and its indiscriminate nature, which is illustrated with rare prints and a series of ceramic figures. Violent death is presented in the third room with some gruesome Goya etchings. The fourth room concentrates on anatomy and includes medical books and diagrams as well as John Isaac’s sculpture ‘Are you still mad at me?’ a realistic depiction of a brutally dissected body which reminded me of the work of Gunther von Hagens. The final room is concerned with commemorating the dead and considers the rituals connected to death and mourning in various societies, many of which involve masks and images of the dead. The final piece in the exhibition is Jodie Carey’s ‘In the eyes of others’ a enormous chandelier of ‘bones’. The exhibition was direct in its approach to death, there was little mention of any form of afterlife, death was depicted as a final, often gruesome, ending, but it was interesting to see how death has been, and continues to be, an inspiration for many artists.

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