Taxidermy snakes reflect the distortions of social media and confinement of lockdown

Polly Morgan exhibition at The Bomb Factory in Archway

Polly Morgan exhibition at The Bomb Factory in Archway - Credit: Archant

Polly Morgan’s abstract sculptures at The Bomb Factory use nail art and taxidermy reptiles to comment on an age when our digital selves dominate our physical selves

Polly Morgan exhibition at The Bomb Factory in Archway

Polly Morgan exhibition at The Bomb Factory in Archway - Credit: Archant

Can a snake painted with nail art portray our need to contain, control and conceal?

Is your home a sanctuary or a snake pit? Does Instagram even matter?

How to Behave at Home is a solo exhibition by taxidermist and sculptor Polly Morgan, at Archway’s The Bomb Factory Art Foundation.

It is informed by both social media and the Covid pandemic - an age when our digital selves are experienced by more people than our physical selves

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The trompe l’oeil nail artistry and decorative hide of her taxidermy snakes comment on the disparity between surface and reality - the reptiles are twisted and squeezed into restrictive forms, depicting the distortion that social media forces on our image of ourselves.

Containing them in concrete and cast polystyrene structures, she also compares the way they are forced into confined spaces to our own restrictions during lockdown.

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“My work is about things being contained and constricted and spilling out of openings. The fleshiness of snakes worked very well in that context,” she says.

“Snakes have these beautifully patterned and iridescent skins, and I found them quite a good metaphor for ourselves and our lives, particular our lives online as we live so much online these days, especially during Covid when we were confined to our homes engaging with friends lovers and family in two-dimensional hyper-reality.

“Their skins are designed to camouflage them or to mimic the skins of more venomous snakes. They are trying to allow a particular image of themselves to flourish. I found this a good metaphor for the way we curate our online selves by selecting one image over another, using filters or pictures of ourselves where we are trying to conform to a certain standard. Everybody has the desire to fit in and give a certain impression to themselves to others.”

After studying taxidermy back in 2004 the 40-year-old has used the form to create unsettling still lives where the animals are observed in death instead of life.

In How To Behave At Home she combines her taxidermy skills with self-taught painting and model-making to make illusory abstract sculptures which she says “draw connections between things and play with surface, shape and colour.”

The exhibition runs October 14 until November 2 with a private view on October 14.

Thursday to Sunday 11am to 5pm at 9-15 Elthorne Road N19.

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