A matter of life and deathflashes

Angela Singer, Under the White (Schenck), 2021.

Taxidermy heads adorned with pearls, crystals, and ceramic leaves feature in Who What Was, a new exhibition by Angela Singer.

Artist and animal rights activist Angela Singer aims to address the exploitation of animals and the environment through the repurposing and remodelling of vintage taxidermy. She describes her creative process as “reclamation, collection, resurrection, destruction, construction.”

Angela says the animals she works with are not perfect specimens of taxidermy. “They are discarded, donated, aged and damaged which removes some of their natural preserved realistic look. I don’t choose vintage taxidermy for its aesthetic but for the stories of the animal’s life and death. Since the mid-1990s I have adorned or covered vintage taxidermy with found materials or sculpted mixed media to create something familiar yet unfamiliar.”

Angela in her studio, May 2021.

Her solo exhibition, Who What Was (at Suite’s Wellington gallery, 24-30 May) includes Under the White, a triptych of one lamb and two fawn heads, Velveteen, a rabbit head covered with a PVC clay veil, and a “glow in the dark” work called Deathflash. “All living organisms emit low-intensity light,” explains Angela. “At the time of death, that radiation is ten to 1,000 times stronger than that emitted under normal conditions.” This is the “deathflash”.

Angela hopes visitors to the exhibition will have a meaningful encounter. “When we encounter taxidermy there’s an awareness of the space between human and animal, and the interstices of life and death. I hope the viewer will feel a permeable barrier – we are animals.”

The exhibition is part of Wellington’s Face to Face: Portrait Festival in which nine dealer galleries and five public galleries are participating, from 27–30 May. “It is a new format to encourage the general public into Wellington’s galleries, which can sometimes be intimidating for new audiences,” says Grace Ridley-Smith, the coordinator for Face to Face.

The portrait festival is aligned with the New Zealand Portrait Gallery’s inaugural award for emerging Māori artists – the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award. The winner will be announced on 27 May, and the exhibition of winners and finalists is at the Portrait Gallery until 15 August.

Read our Q&A with Jhana Millers, Festival Advisor for the Face to Face Portait Festival here.


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