In January 2008 the Natural History Museum in London invited 11 artists to propose new artworks for a ceiling within the Museum to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.
The selected artists were Christine Borland, Dorothy Cross, Mark Fairnington, Tanya Kovats, Alison Turnbull, United Visual Artists, Mark Wallinger, Richard Wentworth, Rachel Whiteread and Richard Woods.
The exhibition of proposals, Darwin's Canopy, ran from 4 June until 14 September 2008. This was a group exhibition of contemporary artists exploring evolutionary thinking and the Theory of Natural Selection. The exhibition focused on the legacy of Charles Darwin’s ideas.
Mark Fairnington produced a ceiling design that incorporated twelve circular paintings, each 130cm in diameter, each painting would depict in significant detail the eye of a specimen held in the collection of the Museum. The painted glass eyes reflect the interior of this institution, the halls in which they are housed.
This was a work about looking and being looked at.
In The Origin of Species, Darwin wondered at the eye, this organ of extreme perfection and complication:
'To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.'
The Descent of Man, published in 1871, argued that humans were descended from apes. The Great Apes, gorilla and orangutan embody Darwin's belief in the close evolutionary relationship between apes and humans. He considered the Tiger and Zebra two of the most beautiful animals in the world. The Dodo, Bison and Polar Bear have become iconic images of extinction, near-extinction, and the threat of extinction as a consequence of the actions of man.
The specimens in Fairnington's work were selected because they relate to Darwin's ideas historically and how these ideas impact upon our contemporary understanding of the profound fragility of the world and our survival in it.
|Type of Research:||Show/Exhibition|
|Your affiliations with UAL:||Colleges > Wimbledon College of Art|
|Copyright Holders:||Mark Fairnington|
|Funders:||The Natural History Museum|
|Related Exhibitions:||A Duck for Mr Darwin, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle|
|Locations / Venues:|
|Deposited By:||Mark Fairnington|
|Deposited On:||04 Aug 2010 16:08|
|Last Modified:||26 Sep 2011 13:49|