The Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition of new works by Martine Poppe at the Shrimp Factory (Rekefabrikken) in Nevlunghavn, Norway. The Earth in Search of Magic Tidings transforms the gallery space into a garden saturated with colour and filled with giant blooms.
Through a series of paintings and sculptures, Poppe continues her explorations into climate change, ecofeminism and gender tropes, with specific focus on the many symbolisms of flowers as memento mori in the traditional still life genre as well as emblems of fertility, femininity, nature and domesticity. Often considered a trite or frivolous subject-matter, Poppe breathes new life into floral forms creating overblown, surreal, glitching landscapes that are at once joyful and seductive, strange and unnerving.
The exhibition borrows its title from a poem by the Irish writer and ecofeminist Rosemarie Rowley and references both our quest for a more sustainable future as well as the other-worldly appearance of Poppe’s reproductions of nature where larger-than-life plants shimmer in luminescent tones. The paintings in this latest series are based on the artist’s photographs of cut flowers, specifically species with extra large carbon footprints. As Poppe notes, cut flowers are a potent example of how human interference and desire has manipulated nature to the point of rendering it ‘pure sci-fi’.
The flowers in these paintings are man-made modifications of the original species, grown in highly controlled nursery environments, tended to by robots working around the clock to create the perfect bloom but at a great cost to the global climate. Pristine and untouched by human hands, the flowers are then cut and shipped off to be momentarily enjoyed, just as they perish.
the process of growing the flowers
Poppe aims to capture these flowers in the moment where effort and expense culminates in a brief moment of human pleasure. Looking to the process of growing the flowers, Poppe further manipulates their appearance digitally; the photographs are brightened and sharpened, the colours are warped and every area of shadow is drastically reduced or replaced.
The result is a series of unnaturally bright sketches, polluted with speckles of dark purple pixels, like bruises or stains, that refuse to be erased. These pixels are further intensified in the transference from digital image to painted surface, a process in which Poppe covers the printed image with translucent sail cloth on to which she paints directly.
From a distance the works appear vivid, impenetrable and bold, filled with huge, velvety petals, but on closer inspection the images dissolve, revealing the quick gestures of Poppe’s mark making. These marks record her movements as she works from the top left corner of the canvas to the bottom right, rendering the painting in a single layer.
The Melancholy of Nature
There is a joyful defiance in these works, in their monumental scale and pastel colour palette. Through her process, Poppe reclaims and transforms the subject-matter, asserting its relevance as a complex symbol for the contemporary world. This is perhaps most obvious in the sculptural works, which are assembled from the paint sodden textiles Poppe wears when painting mixed with the remains of baby wipes, dried oil paint and the photographs used in the process.
Also added to these artistic waste materials are fragments of rubbish collected from the area around Poppe’s studio in Oslo and the local beaches near Nevlunghavn. The resulting three-dimensional floral forms are gigantic, sumptuous and sharp-edged; they demand attention and commandeer the space.
The material weight and force of the sculptures combined with the joyous, gentle and shifting nature of the paintings creates a heightened perceptual experience that asks us to look again at what we might think of as familiar and to consider how we ascribe value to the things that surround us.