The Forest

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Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat noon-5pm

18 Woodstock Street, W1C 2AL, London, UK
Open: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat noon-5pm


The Forest


The Forest
to Sat 4 Sep 2021
Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat noon-5pm

Hannah Brown, Cathy de Monchaux, Gustave Doré, Melanie Manchot, Rebecca Partridge, Sophy Rickett, Hiraki Sawa, Indrė Šerpytytė, Viktor Timofeev, Alison Watt

Parafin presents a group show exploring images of forests. The exhibition includes both gallery artists and guest artists and takes as its starting point an engraving by the great nineteenth century illustrator, Gustave Doré.

Parafin The Forest 1

Parafin The Forest 2

Parafin The Forest 3

Parafin The Forest 4

Parafin The Forest 5

Parafin The Forest 6

Parafin The Forest 7

Parafin The Forest 8

Parafin The Forest 9

Throughout history forests have been powerful symbolic sites in all cultures, yet have often represented quite contradictory ideas. On the one hand, the forest has been seen as a place of retreat, of sanctuary, and of regeneration (Robin Hood’s Sherwood, Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden). On the other hand, it is a place of danger and confusion (see the stories of The Brothers Grimm or films such as ‘The Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Wake Wood’).

At the beginning of ‘The Divine Comedy’, in the first lines of the ‘Inferno’, Dante writes:

‘Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.’

Doré’s iconic illustration shows the poet, a lone figure completely isolated within an impossibly tangled wood. Here, the forest becomes a visualisation of his mental landscape.

Taking Dante’s lines as inspiration, the exhibition explores how images of dense and tangled undergrowth can convey or evoke different states of mind, as well as wider societal themes. These images are knotty, impenetrable, unruly and overwhelming – feelings we are all familiar with at the moment – but we might also see them as pastoral or Romantic visions offering the possibility of escape from recent events. While the works themselves were not made with Dante in mind, by bringing them together we invite the viewer to explore subjective responses to what is one of the fundamental cultural archetypes.

Courtesy of the artists and Parafin, London

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