The Earth has music for those who listen: Curated by Claudia Cheng

16 September - 6 October 2022

“At all times I have been moved…by the music of the way things are…the gestation of a work resembles the way a tree grows, from top toward bottom. The sun feeds the leaves that create chlorophyll, making sap flow down to nourish the roots. The nature of the developing images determines the quality of the lines, and the line reciprocates.”

Hedda Sterne, 2004

Presenting The Earth has music for those who listen, a group exhibition opening on Thursday 15th September from 6-8pm. The curator Claudia Cheng has written an introduction to the show:

 

‘The Earth has music for those who listen presents a world in which humanity and the Earth share a sacred bond of respect and reciprocity. Listening to the harmony between different species allows us to tap into the universal language that humans have long ignored in order to exploit the Earth for the advancement of our own kind. The looming threat of environmental disasters should serve as a reminder that the Earth has its stories and its symphonies – and we need to learn to listen. This exhibition reveals all living organisms, from plants to humans, as nodes of the same life system, continually evolving from form to form, existence to existence.

 

Observing the symbiotic relationships between other species can reveal how much there is to learn from intelligences other than our own. Trees communicate through their interconnected root systems to provide weaker trees with nutrients so the whole forest can thrive together. At the same time, they sustain life for other species by purifying air and water. Buffalos share a similar bond with the grass they feed on: unlike humans, who routinely over consume, these animals know not to overgraze. A buffalo’s saliva contains enzymes that stimulate grass growth, and the herd respects the grass by not returning to the same patch for months. Grass gives life to buffalo and buffalo give life to grass in return. From flowering plants and flying insects, to rain showers and underground fungi networks, the mutual flourishing found in nature illustrates that every living form is interdependent.

 

The Earth has music for those who listen brings together six women artists spanning six decades – five contemporary and one as the historical counterpoint – to shine light on a theme that stands the test of time. At 93, Hedda Sterne reflected back on her artistic life: “At all times I have been moved…by the music of the way things are…the gestation of a work resembles the way a tree grows, from top toward bottom. The sun feeds the leaves that create chlorophyll, making sap flow down to nourish the roots. The nature of the developing images determines the quality of the lines, and the line reciprocates.” The natural rhythm of Sterne’s practice serves as a cornerstone influence for this exhibition.

 

In the work of Anna Zemánková, one of the world’s leading figures of Art Brut, vivid patterns metamorphose into symphonic botanical forms. The syncopated rhythms contained in her drawings are influenced by the music to which she listened while creating work. The lyrical artworks that contemporary artists Cecilia Fiona, Cecilia Granara, Yulia Iosilzon, Gal Schindler, and Salomé Wu have created for the exhibition depict the intertwining of humans and plants, flesh with nature, to honour our reciprocal relationship with Mother Earth. Each artwork is a portal that may enlighten the viewer’s perception of our relationship with the natural world, reminding us to learn from its stories, listen to its harmonies, and celebrate our kinship with the Earth.’

 

Claudia Cheng is an independent art advisor and curator based between London and Hong Kong. She has curated exhibitions for galleries internationally, and collaborates with Artsy to curate online exhibitions and auctions. She currently serves as a young patron of The Serpentine Galleries’ Future Contemporaries. She has published artist interviews and curated exhibitions focused on women in order to bring female artists’ narratives forward. She began her art career at Christie’s, and she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Stanford University.


Cecilia Fiona (b. 1997, Denmark) is a self-taught artist who received her BA in Art History from the University of Copenhagen. Her work has been exhibited internationally in galleries and institutes including: The Reventlow-Museum, Lolland, Grand Teatret, Copenhagen, Gallery Q, Copenhagen, Galleri Kant, Copenhagen, VITRINE, Basel, Annka Kultys, London, Bricks Gallery, Copenhagen, OTP Copenhagen, Formation Gallery, København. Fiona has created a unique technique for her practice, mixing handmade and natural pigments into the rabbit skin glue to use as a paint, providing her work with a semi-translucent, dusty finish, accentuating its ethereal qualities.


Cecilia Granara (b. 1991, Saudi Arabia) lives and works in Paris. Granara received a BA in Fine Art from Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, a BA from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, and an MFA from Hunter College in New York. Her work has been included in various institutional presentations including the CAC Passerelle in Brest and the Fondation d'Entreprise Ricard in Paris. Solo exhibitions include Sapling in January 2022, Exo Exo, Paris, and Fieldworks Gallery, London. Granara’s practice celebrates the physical and psychic landscape of emotions. Her works are born of her mastery of Italian Medieval art, her visions of symbolic iconography, and her dedication to feminist readings and poetry.


Yulia Iosilzon (b. 1992, Russia) completed a Foundation in Art and Design at Camberwell College of Art, before gaining a Fine Art BA from the Slade School of Fine Art, and later a Fine Art MA from the Royal College of Art. Iosilzon has exhibited internationally, including solo shows in London, most recently at Sapling in June 2022, as well as New York, Moscow, and Seoul. She received the prestigious Bloomberg New Contemporaries award in 2019, and the Audrey Wykeham Prize in 2016. Iosilzon’s paintings are laden with vibrant washes of colour incorporated over transparent silks and cloths. The artist repeats symbols and motifs throughout her artwork, building up a unique iconography which she uses to comment on personal, social and political issues.


Gal Schindler (b. 1993, Israel) lives and works in London. Since receiving her MA from Royal College of Art and her BA from Slade School of Fine Art, her work has been widely exhibited, including at Ginny on Frederick gallery, London, Painters Painting Paintings, London, Daulang gallery, Seoul, PM/AM, London, Daisy’s room gallery, London, MAMOTH gallery, London, and at East Contemporary, Côte D’azur. Schindler works into wet layers of oil paint with a gesture that is both sharp and smooth. Interweaving her figures with elements of nature, the artist renders fluid forms that dance between the back and front of the canvas’ slick surface.


Salomé Wu (b.1996, China) lives and works in London. Wu is currently pursuing her MA at the Royal College of Arts, received her MA in Printmaking from Camberwell College of Arts in 2020, and her BA in Textiles Design & Print from Chelsea College of Arts in 2009. Wu recently had a solo exhibition at Guts Gallery, London, and group exhibitions at Huxley-Parlour, London, Tube Culture Hall, Milan, Saatchi Gallery, London, and Canopy Collections, London. Drawn from Wu’s engagement with Romanticism and the Romantic idea of the sublime, utopian motifs such as adjourned figures in a state of nirvana or lonesome celestial flowers orbit the artist’s otherworldly canvases.


Anna Zemánková (1908-1986, Czechoslovakia) was a self-taught artist and one of the most prominent names in Art Brut circles. Zemánková's work has been celebrated with numerous institutional retrospective exhibitions, including at the Olomouc Museum of Art, Gallery of Fine Arts, Moravian Gallery, and Prague City Gallery in the Czech Republic alone. In 2003 she was honoured at the 55th Venice Biennale prior to the Centre Pompidou acquiring a significant collection of her work. In 2017, the Collection de l’Art Brut mounted a major retrospective that assembled almost 130 drawings rendered in pastels, pencil, and ink. The artist’s dimensional compositions that resemble flora and fauna are projections of her transpersonal visions from spiritist mediums.