'Limbo'

New works by Robyn Walton

15 August to 21 September 2008

 

Being in limbo is something most of us have experienced.  Cant go forward, cant go back, restlessly churning up the ground in a space that feels powerless and stuck.

 

The writer and philosopher Dante imagined Limbo as the first circle of hell " not yet the fires of hell, but certainly not heaven either. The Roman Catholic Church coined the concept as a place of no possible progression where the souls of unbaptised children or other unenlightened but sinless souls wait for all eternity.

 

For the patients of Heathcote Mental Reception home, limbo was the state in which they were interned.  The site was founded in the 1920s as a place for the treatment of recoverable patients.  An intriguing term, implying a suspension of normality that can be reversed " a sleep of reason from which there will be an awakening " limbo with redemption.

 

It is a common human belief that animals other than ourselves lack rational thought and many theories hold that we are the only species with the prescience of our own mortality; that is with consciousness and the ability to understand our place in the world.

 

If we look at animals with eyes that are unable to imagine animal consciousness, unless as a reflection of humanity whereby we anthropomorphise every response, do we confine animals to a permanent state of limbo from which unlike the former patients of Heathcote, there is no awakening? What is mirrored in the eyes that look back?

 

Our nearest relative, the Apes are imagined as the other - separate, unknowable in essence and disconcerting for that, existing near us, often resembling us, but definitely not us. The bonobo is a chimpanzee that shares 98% of human DNA and like most other great apes, has been used in multifarious roles to represent humans (but not quite) and in experiments and scientific exploration as test humans.

 

Interested in the parallels and boundaries of the human and animal worlds, Walton has used an everyman figure in the form of the bonobo ape in the paintings and drawings in this exhibition to examine some of these ideas on a state of limbo.

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