Laurence's recent body of work investigates the intersection of art, science and nature through an analysis of artists' materials and their origins. With a specific focus on the work of Rembrandt and other Dutch masters, Laurence explores the 'physiology of a painting' in her modular vitrines and haunting images derived from botanical illustrations and x-ray fluorescence scans. The exhibition harks back to the artist's earlier alchemical works (with her research beginning 12 years ago) and reveals a view of colour from its source in the nature of the world.
From natural history collections she has sourced raw pigments and binders, commonly found in paintings, and presents these substances as scientific experiments or specimens in individual 'cabinets of curiosity'. Interested in a scientific analysis of colour, Laurence likens her contained installations to an anatomy lesson, or a 'medical examination' of paintings. Elements such as eggshells, bone, and minerals are gathered, revealing the organic origins of the old masters' materials and how they were subsequently transformed into powerful human stories and cultural objects. In providing an artistic interpretation of the palette of this era, Laurence stresses that all matter stems from the environment and that nature and culture are deeply entwined.
The exhibition also features Laurence's iconic mixed-media wall work, including a long frieze with a series of panels moving between fluids and images, matter and light, fractured and fragile landscapes. Her Plants bleed lakes depicts a spectral range of colours sourced from plants paired with their botanical illustrations to reveal the scientific roots. Colours created by plants, often referred to as 'lakes', are transparent and fugitive by nature, like nature. Taking her title from Michael Taussig's book of the same name, Janet Laurence's What Colour is the Sacred? is an intelligent and beautiful meditation on the mysteries of colour, creative alchemy, and the enduring primacy of the earth.
Press release courtesy Arc One Gallery.