St. John’s based visual artist Philippa Jones’ Suspended is on display at The Rooms now until Mid-April, with an official opening reception on February 8th at 7:30pm.
Suspended is an expansive, interactive exhibition that investigates our relationship to mortality through sculpture and large-scale drawings in watercolour and ink.
Jones was inspired to make work about our relationship to death after losing a close friend to cancer in 2017. In the months before her friend’s death, the artist and her friend were able to have a number of philosophical conversations about time and the finite nature of life.
In Suspended, Jones is interested in creating a secular space where people can reflect on death, not necessarily as it relates to their personal experiences, but as part of a larger cycle of dissolution and rebirth.
The exhibition’s title piece is composed of thousands of resin orbs hung from the ceiling with nylon thread. There are fragments of animal remains or bits of plant life inside each transparent sphere.Some of the diverse specimens in the orbs include: seaweed, egg shells, mink bones, baby’s breath, strawberry leaf, and human teeth.
“All those orbs look like they’re little life bombs, ready to burst open and you can see these alive, organic things preserved within the resin, but at the same time the act of preservation within resin makes them dead forever, they don’t get to rot and become part of the cycle again,” Jones said.
Below the orbs there are three long benches covered in gold leaf, a plaque on the wall invites viewers to lie on the vaguely coffin-like benches and look up into the orbs.
As a precious metal, gold is often used in religious rituals that celebrate re-birth, its use in this piece evokes those ceremonies. Jones explained that she chose an adhesive that would hold the gold leaf in place, but also allow it wear away over time. “Suspended” is interactive in that people are allowed to physically climb up and recline on the art but also because the act of lying on it will eventually erode the gold surface of the benches.
The visible transformation of the benches will contrast with the flora and fauna in the orbs above, which seem to be eerily exempt from natural decay. Lying between pieces of frozen plant and animal life, and the gradually disintegrating gold leaf, gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect on the inevitability of death and the passing of time.
“There’s just something about Suspended that feels like a church for want of a better word. A place to think,” Jones said
Jones has created an otherworldly space that gives the viewer a rare opportunity to sit with the absurd beauty of mortality.
Jones will be giving an artist talk on her immersive exhibition at The Rooms on February 13th at 7:00pm.