The Accidental Primate

Art Life , Exhibitions Dec 05, 2014 No Comments

From Andrew Frost

Writing on Helen Pynor‘s exhibition The Life Raft at Dominik Mersch‘s gallery back in 2012, The Art Life’s Carrie Miller observed that the artist’s academic background in science and art “…is often cited as the reason the cerebral and the sensual are equally interesting to her” but what makes Pynor’s work compelling “…is the fine calibration she achieves between the two which demonstrates that, like art and science, reason and affect aren’t mutually exclusive.” While that show was concerned with the material quality of bodies explored through insects and crustaceans, Pynor’s new show offers a compelling take on the nature of adaptability, design and evolution.


While the title of the exhibition The Accidental Primate might suggest the main subject is human, the only living creature evident in this suite of photos is the fruit bat. Accompanying each of the five photos of the bat in flight is an image of a parachute unfurling, presumably captured while in rapid descent. The connections between the images at first seem random, but as one considers the remarkable similarity between the fruit bat’s wings and the structure of the parachute more intriguing questions come into play: who or what is the primate of the exhibition’s title? And how does human ingenuity manage to replicate that which is found in nature at such a fundamental level? Or to put that the other way around, how do “…the accidents of evolution create improbable solutions to the problem of survival?”

Until December 17
Dominik Mersch Gallery, Rushcutters Bay
Pic: Helen Pynor, The Accidental Primate 1, 2014. Pigment print, face-mounted on acrylic with shadow frame.

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Andrew Frost

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