Preview: Animal Magic, Eleven Fine Art, London

An exhibition that really gets under the skin

Charlotte Cripps@charcripps
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:45

The artist-taxidermist Polly Morgan – who has sold two artworks to Kate Moss, including a dead blue tit on a prayer book and dead quail chick in a matchbox – only uses animals that have been run over or have died from natural causes in her work. "I don't go out hunting for them; I wait to be given them," says Morgan.

In this new exhibition at London's Eleven gallery, Animal Magic, more of her work can be seen. A one-day-old quail chick stands on the corner of a white plinth, with an empty Perspex box on top of it. A dead magpie stands in an aggressive pose, on the handset of an antique Bakelite telephone, warning against answering the phone, in case it is bad news. A long-tailed tit is dead on a small leather-bound prayer book, underneath a glass dome with a miniature crystal chandelier suspended within it.

Currently part of the show You Dig the Tunnel, I'll Hide the Soil at the White Cube, in which artists were asked to create work based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, she exhibits a trapped dead messenger pigeon inside a bottle. She is also working on a larger installation with two African white-backed vultures, based on old drawings of flying machines.

"I've always been keen on taxidermy. Originally, I wanted to furnish my Hoxton flat with taxidermy – but I realised that I wanted to create scenes with dead animals and not just mount them in a glass case that mimics their natural habitat," she says. "My work is contemplative and touching. I've taken away the repulsion of a dead animal so that you can dwell on its beauty. Those traditional displays didn't appeal to contemporary art buyers, whereas many of these do."

Also in the exhibition are Tessa Farmer's sculptural installations of fairy scenes, created out of roots and fragments of insects, and work by Olly & Suzi, who have been recording their experiences of nature in paintings for 20 years, now focusing on African wild dogs and polar bears.

Animal Magic, 1 to 24 May (020-7823 5540); You Dig the Tunnel, to 10 May (020-7930 5373)

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