27 March–29 May 201027 Mar–29 May 2010
Peter Madden draws much of his imagery from old issues of National Geographic, plundering and reworking its discredited ’empire of signs’ to forge his own. His surrealistic pictures, objects, and installations have a watchmaker level of detail and intensity. They have been described as ‘microcosms’ and ‘intricate kingdoms thick with flying forms’. A creator of metaphor-rich other-worlds, the New Zealand artist has one foot in the vanitas still-life tradition and other in new-age spirituality. On the one hand, he is death-obsessed: a master of morbid decoupage. (Moths and butterflies—symbols of transient life—abound. His assemblages in bell jars suggest some Victorian taxidermist killing time in his parlour.) On the other hand, with his flocks, schools, and swarms of quivering animal energy, Madden revels in biodiversity. His works manage to be at once morbid and abundant, rotting and blooming, creepy and fey.