“Is it only the external landscape which is altering? How often recently most of us have had the feeling of déjà vu, of having seen all this before, in fact of remembering these swamps and lagoons all too well. However selective the conscious mind may be, most biological memories are unpleasant ones, echoes of danger and terror. Nothing endures for so long as fear.”
J.G. Ballard from The Drowned World (1962)
In line with the prevailing mood across Europe after an overthrow of political certainties in 2016, this exhibition curated by Marcelle Joseph features the artwork of seven London-based artists brought to Rome, many for the first time. Hijacking a phrase from The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard’s first science fiction novel and one of his London-based dystopic tales, Walled Gardens in an Insane Eden portrays the world we live in today: on the precipice but hopeful for a less fragile future. Looking at the various events which occured over the last year some of the artworks assembled for this exhibition may be construed to express skepticism, from Marie Jacotey’s text-based drawings screaming “No!” and “Can’t you see you have done enough damage here?” to Gabriella Boyd’s painting of a man holding a glass half empty, art is often spoken about as a catalyst for social change. Viewers may look for the silver lining in Rhys Coren’s cartoon-like cloud-shaped painted marquetry work or be captivated by the flames in Zadie Xa’s hanging textile work that represent a symbol of magic and cleansing in her personal supernatural narratives inspired by Korean shaman lore. Continuing this theme of art as therapy, Florence Peake will actively channel both physically and orally the personal losses and political concerns of various audience members at her performance of Voicings on 10th March, acting as a conduit between an imagined and a material place as she embodies the collective spirit of the audience. In the last gallery of the exhibition, viewers will enter a sculptural labyrinth similar to the London milieu of Ballard’s The Drowned World. But instead of an uninhabited, unbearably hot swamp ruled by primeval reptilian life and aggressive tropical vegetation, one enters an urban jungle of another sort: a more hospitable space populated with body parts and figures, both small and large, of diverse materials and colours, existing together in harmony courtesy of artists Rebecca Ackroyd, Kira Freije and Florence Peake.