Article from Northings

Charlie Mclenahan’s body of work Sepulchre explores mankind’s exploitation of the natural world in a series of finely composed photographs and objects. There is a great deal of care in each visualisation of the subject, exemplified by the artist’s photographic image of a dead hare Violation of Sepulchre. This reads as both a powerful comment on humanity and a beautifully detailed tonal study. The soft texture of fur, whiskers and arrangement of form contribute to the perceived value and preciousness of the subject. 

The artist’s large scale image of an owl (Untitled) introduces a metallic patina to the photographic image further extending this idea. These images are not shocking depictions of road kill as they could so easily have been in the hands of a different artist, but a considered response to conflict between the man made and natural world. In many ways the artist’s process is a restorative ritual in relation to each individual body, they are not displayed as curiosities or as sensationalised signifiers of death but actively encourage thought- the very thing which makes us human distilled into the creative act. 

A sequence of five images depicting the bodies of two finches in different stages of decay introduces the element of colour, an acidic yellow green which heightens the sense of degeneration. The bodies of animals and birds perfectly encapsulated to preserve their essential DNA and identity link with the two dimensional images to convey an attitude of respect and reverence. The artist’s sketchbooks reveal the evolution and distillation of these images which is gratifying to see, successfully grappling with difficult subject matter in a refined and interesting way. 

© Georgina Coburn, 2009