Venue: Art in the Bar
Dates: Friday 26 June - Sunday 6 September


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Fiona MacDonald: Wild Word

Art in the Bar

“I wish to speak a word for Nature.” Henri David Thoreau

The alphabet is emblematic of abstract, anthropocentric notions of meaning, so draws a sharp contrast with the organic, growing materiality of the trees. The ‘letters’ are selected and arranged from an ongoing collection of photographs of found shapes that MacDonald interprets as signs and communications from nonhuman nature. The work’s (playful, serious, deep, shallow) proposition is that gestures and forms can be proffered and interpreted across species divides.

The meaning of these signs may also be more abstract, or embodied. In making and observing paintings, one reads subtle shifts in weight, colour, texture and sheen as meaningful, which has parallel with the way a naturalist learns to watch for traces of scuff, hair or track to sense the activity of an animal: each mark can signify a change in direction or intent.

Wild Word also reflects on ideas around sacred and profane symbology – the hidden meanings found in objects or images only legible to the initiated. One manifestation of this was the medieval Christian ‘doctrine of signatures’ – the idea that plant and animal parts would aid the function of the organs (or relieve the disease) that they were considered to resemble. 


Fiona MacDonald lives and works in Kent. Her solo exhibition Woodland Portrait Project is at Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen and Kaleidoscope, Sevenoaks in 2015. MacDonald was Abbey Fellow in Painting at the British School at Rome in 2011. Her previous solo exhibitions include Morphology at Maddox Arts in 2009, Anthropoflora at Long and Ryle 2007 and Habitat at Phoenix Arts, Brighton in 2006. Duo shows include Phyllida Barlow and Fiona MacDonald at CoExist, Southend and A Point in the Field with Anne Gathmann at Exeter Phoenix in 2010. She trained at Chelsea College of Art and Leeds Metropolitan University.

Part of the Thirteen Blackbirds Look at A Man exhibition

"I wish to speak a word for Nature."
Henri David Thoreau

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