Gallery View


Installation detail from 5th Gallery, Dublin. 2002.

Future Nature

Photographer Karl Grimes's penchant for the disorientating and the unsettling is long established. From dazzling images of an imaginary North African country and other excursions into the exotic, to disturbingly beautiful colour studies of neonatal human malformations gathered together in his controversial exhibition Still Life in 1998, he has continually sought to explore and question the conventions of perception.

Now, with Future Nature at 5th@Guinness Storehouse he pushes the boundaries again. This time he focuses on unique animal embryos and foetuses from the collections of the Hubrecht Laboratory in the Netherlands, and the Tornblad Institute in Sweden. The nascent animals adrift in their jars of fluid appear familiar yet disconcertingly other, primed with life and personality yet hauntingly ethereal. Grimes's approach, to luxuriate in warm colours and soft tones, plays against the rigorous, scientific rationale of preservation and taxonomy. We expect cold, functional images from science, not such gentle, empathic portraits. Yet, what is ultimately striking is the openness of scientific method to whatever nature throws at us, while our aesthetic sense struggles to catch up.

Aidan Dunne
Reproduced from The Ticket, The Irish Times, February 6, 2002


From the glass menageries housed in the Hubrecht Laboratory, Utrecht in the Netherlands, and the Tornblad Institute, Lund in Sweden, come memories of the processes and politics of collection and colonisation. Grimes transforms these embryonic figures through the techniques and codes of glamour photography, amassing a strange, hyperreal candy-coloured menagerie.

This carnival of animals works in a Janus-like manner, looking backwards to their past buried in research collections, here reinvigorated and suggesting how in the future, Nature's specimens may be mediated as a virtual Disneyworld - an imaginary zoo, a sublime simulacrum. Grimes amalgamates diverse fields and processes from fashion photography, portraiture, anthropology and historical material.

His sustained engagement with the imagery and technologies of medicine and science forces a reassessment of the current art and science boundaries and challenges the so-called objectivity of the scientific and museum discourse, suggesting new kinds of public display, spectacle and potential understanding.

Stephanie McBride
Reproduced from CIRCA , Summer 2001. Issue no 96. pp. 30-33

See: The Sunday Tribune - February 24, 2002

The Cultures of Preservation (AHRC Research Network). 2015

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