Exhibition:

Dark Botanicals

20 June to 20 July

Theres Cassini | Ernst Lima | Lauren Nickou | Ariadne Randall | Letizia Werth | Hamid Yaraghchi

Exhibition text by curator Laura Amann

Installation shot featuring work of Letizia Werth, Lauren Nickou, and Hamid Yaraghchi. From left to right, Werth works of graphite, black ink, and sealed by an acrylic wash on un-primed canvas, a Nickou painting of sunflowers in greens and yellows on a red background through the door, and a Yaraghchi oil on canvas painting of a body in the woods in an Autumn palette.
Installation shot featuring work of Letizia Werth, Lauren Nickou, and Hamid Yaraghchi. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)

Dark Botanicals 
Text by Laura Amann, Curator, Kunsthalle Wien

…the weeds grew to knee height and then quickly withered into compost that gave off an
ammoniac scent strong enough to make her pinch her nose. The compost ate away at
whatever was below it, decomposing other greenery and leaving the earth below yellow and
fallow…
…second stage was mold; the rot prepared the ideal condition for fungal spores to take hold,
which would sprout and eat through what was left. Then, in an orgy of apoptosis, the plants
and fungi would delete themselves along with what they had eaten…
…she was struck by the spectacular mess of her house; it was thriving, growing, and dying all
at once, cannibalizing itself in programmed splendor…

– excerpts from the book Oval by Elvia Wilk

Eros once again limb-loosener whirls me
sweetbitter, impossible to fight off, creature stealing up…
– fragment of poetry by Sappho

Julia Kristeva’s concept of the ‘abject’ as discussed in her book Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection from 1980 is fascinating for many reasons, but especially because it can be used as a powerful tool for understanding human psychology on an individual level, the same as mechanisms of exclusion and fabrication of the Other on a societal scale. It is a complex theoretical construct that explores the cultural taboos, borders of identity, and the human psyche, – so what happens when we view art through the lens of the abject, or better yet when art forces us to experience the abject? 

Kristeva’s definition of the abject is of something  which is fundamentally repulsive, disturbing, or threatening to our sense of self and the social order. It is not the same as the object, which can be clearly separated from the self. The abject, however, exists at the margins, defying the boundaries between the self and the other as well as the interior from the exterior. It provokes  strong reactions of horror, disgust, and fear – akin  to a primal response that  both repels and fascinates. This combination of disgust and fascination constitutes a key moment. It involves what is tabooed or forbidden, such as bodily fluids, waste, death, and decay – elements that are traditionally expelled from the social, physical and psyche to maintain cleanliness, purity, and a kind of homeostasis.

Kristeva insists that the process of abjection is essential for the formation of identity. Because only by rejecting and expelling that, which is abject, individuals and societies can form a sense of self in opposition. Thus what constitutes the persistent threat of the abject is that it will return and disrupt those boundaries, each time blurring, softening or stretching them.

Installation image featuring work by Letizia Werth and Hamid Yaraghchi. The image is of a gallery with white walls and a gray floor. The piece first piece on the left by Werth is in a black and white palette, the other four on the left, center and right are in an Autumn color palette.
Installation image featuring work by Letizia Werth and Hamid Yaraghchi. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation image of three works by Letizia Werth from the series: Flowers. Each piece is in a black and white monochromatic tone on a white wall with vaulted ceilings.
Installation image of three works by Letizia Werth from the series: Flowers. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation image with three paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi. On on the left side, one straight on, and the last on the right side. The paintings are all in Autumn colors and depict bodies in the woods. The gallery has white walls and a gray floor.
Installation image with three paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation image with four paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi set on an angle. On on the left side, one straight on, and the last two on the right side. The paintings are all in Autumn colors and depict bodies in the woods. The gallery has white walls and a gray floor.
Installation image of four paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Two paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi set between three windows and a vaulted ceiling. The painting each depict human body parts lying in the woods and have colors of pinks, violets on a brown and green background of leaves and earth.
Two paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
An oil painting of an vague, abstract shape that resembles a headless body in the woods and is laying on a pile of leaves. The colors are greens, yellows, pinks, browns, and orange.
Hamid Yaraghchi "About No-Bodies II" (2022) Oil on Canvas 63 x 50 cm. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
An oil painting of an vague, abstract shape that resembles an organ and is laying on a pile of leaves. The colors are pinks, blues, and violet.
Hamid Yaraghchi "About No-Bodies II" (2022) Oil on Canvas 63 x 50 cm. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation shot with two large paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi and a Lauren Nickou painting seen through the door. The two paintings by Yaraghchi feature bodies in the woods. Each have an Autumn color palette, or browns, pinks, and greens. The Lauren Nickou painting through the door is a large Sunflower in green, yellow, and blue on a red background.
Installation shot with two large paintings by Hamid Yaraghchi and a Lauren Nickou painting seen through the door. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation image of Hamid Yaraghchi' work "A Horror Movie" with Theres Cassini's sculpture "Das Unausweichliche" through the door. Yaraghchi's painting depicts a body in the woods with a television in Autumn colors. Cassini's sculpture depicts an small clay figure lying on her back with outstretched hands dying in a forest of coral. The colors are also Autumn like.
Installation image of Hamid Yaraghchi' work "A Horror Movie" with Theres Cassini's sculpture "Das Unausweichliche" through the door. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
Installation shot of two Lauren Nickou paintings photographed at a corner angle. A large one on the left, in green, yellow, and blue colors on a dark red and green background, and two smalls works on the right. The first an abstract with blues and violet flowers, and the second with yellow and green withering sunflowers on a black background.
Installation shot of two Lauren Nickou paintings. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
A painting depicting wild abstracted flowers, in green, yellow, and blue colors on a dark red and green background.
Lauren Nickou "Sunflowers at Night" (2022) Oil on Canvas 150 x 120 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
Installation shot of two Lauren Nickou paintings of flowers. The Left piece is blues and violet colors in an abstract shape. The Right piece contains two withering sunflowers with yellow heads and green stems on a black background.
Installation shot of two Lauren Nickou paintings. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
A painting of flowers in blues and violet colors in an abstract shape.
Lauren Nickou "Study for James" (2024) Oil and Flashe on canvas 40 x 30 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
A painting of two withering sunflowers with yellow heads and green stems on a black background.
Lauren Nickou "Sunflowers (Indigo)" (2021) Oil on Canvas 40 x 30 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
Three pieces are present, from left two right. First through the door is a distant Lima textile print on leatherette, on the wall is a digital print of an abstracted body that is seemingly floating in a process of transformation. The palette is whites and pinks on a black background of stretched latex. On the sculpture pedestal is Theres Cassini's sculpture "Das Unausweichliche" depicts an small clay figure lying on her back with outstretched hands dying in a forest of coral. The colors are Autumn like.
Installation shot with work by Ernst Lima and Theres Cassini. (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)
A digital print of an abstracted body that is seemingly floating in a process of transformation. The palette is whites and pinks on a black bakground.
Ernst Lima Hold Your Horse (2021) Digital Print on Latex 170 x 120 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
A digital textile print of abstracted bodies printed onto leatherette. The colors are reddish browns, and black and white and violet on a brown-black textured surface.
Ernst Lima "Liquid Organism I" (2021/22) Textile Print on Leatherette 70 x 50 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
A digital textile print of abstracted bodies printed onto leatherette. The colors are reddish browns, and black and white on a brown-black textured surface.
Ernst Lima "Liquid Organism II" (2021/22) Textile Print on Leatherette 70 x 50 cm (photo courtesy of artist)
Theres Cassini's sculpture "Das Unausweichliche" depicts an small clay figure lying on her back with outstretched hands dying in a forest of coral. The colors are Autumn like.
Theres Cassini "Das Unausweichliche" (2005) Clay, Paper, Acrylic, Metal, Coral,and Epoxy Resin 30 x 12 cm (Photo: Theres Cassini)
A video projection of a figure lying down and a hand touching between two translucent breasts made out of an acrylic molded material and strapped on to symbolize gender-transition. The color palatte is blues with fog and a light source from above.
Still from Ariadne Randall video work entitled "Form & Void (Water Dream 2)" (2024) Video work edition 3 + 2 AP (Photo Kunst Dokumentation, 2024)