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In the Company of Monsters: New Visions, Ancient Myths
23 September 2023 – 24 February 2024
In the Company of Monsters: New Visions, Ancient Myths will be an exhibition of the works of the contemporary artists Eleanor Crook and Paul Reid, alongside objects, texts, and artworks from the University of Reading and Reading Museum. Brought together for the first time, these detailed and striking works share an interest in retelling ancient myths of body difference, diversity, and hybridity. Inspired by the enduring dreams, or nightmares, of bodily ‘otherness’, the weird and wonderful creatures portrayed in this unique exhibition will ask vital questions about humanity’s place in nature, the biological and artistic meanings of diversity and difference, and the vital role that history plays in our understandings of the dynamic workings of natural history.
Eleanor Crook is a British sculptor with a special interest in mortality, anatomy and pathology, who exhibits internationally in fine art and medical and science museum contexts. She studied Classics and Philosophy at Oxford before training in sculpture at Central St Martins and the Royal Academy Schools in the early 90s, where she specialised in wax modeling, lost wax bronze casting and other lifelike media. She pieced together a knowledge of Anatomy from London’s medical museums and the dissection room as a medical artist, finding figurative art to be not in favour at the time; even so, her Classical background meant that communing with statues, and therefore the body, were second nature. Crook considers her work ‘more effigy than statue’, as they are imbued with a convincing sense of life. She has developed close, long-term collaborations with medical museums and historic anatomical wax collections such as the Gordon Museum of Pathology, Guy’s Hospital, Ghent University Museum, and the Vrolik Museum Amsterdam, where she continues wax modeling traditions and combines research through human dissection and studying the history of anatomical model-making. Most recently, she has worked with museum project partners on creating a genre of anatomical Expressionism, uncanny yet rooted in medical investigation, mythology, and the mysteries of the mind. To learn more about Eleanor Crook, her work, and find selected art for sale, visit https://www.eleanorcrook.net
Paul Reid was born in Scone, Perth, in 1975. Between 1994 and 1998, he studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, where he obtained First Class honours in drawing and painting. Since then his work has been part of a number of major exhibitions, in Scotland and northern England in particular, but also in Europe. He has accompanied the then Prince of Wales on visits to Italy, Turkey, Jordan and Canada, drawing and painting the landscapes and people encountered. He is firmly established as an artist who combines technical mastery with striking new visions of ancient myths. On the face of it, Reid’s work is traditional in medium (oil; charcoal), though he has more recently moved into the use of digital technology. Within the traditional aesthetic, however, lies a world of the unexpected: uncanny hybrids of human and animal; juxtapositions of ancient myths with modern landscapes, faces, buildings. Central to every work is storytelling: characters from Greek mythology are caught at tense moments in their narrative, at some point of shocked discovery or on the very edge of violence; or else they pause in strange stillness, allowed a moment’s repose even as the next (perhaps final) act of the mythical drama impends. The seated Minotaur is a perfect example: he sits easily, casually, but the ancient story dictates what is shortly to befall him. To work with ancient myths is to work with stories that have been told and retold for millennia. This is not to say that they cannot be reshaped; they always have been. Reid’s reshapings are subtle, but they leave the viewer in no doubt that ancient men, women, monsters and gods have a place in the modern world as they did in the distant world that first created them.To learn more about Paul Reid and his work, and find selected art for sale, visit: https://www.paulreidart.co.uk/