12 January – 28 February, 2021 (St. Agnes Chapel)
12 Jan, 2021 – 12 Jan, 2022 (digital app)

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Text by Chus Martinez

Nothing seems more natural right now than to pay attention to the non-human aspects of life. Actually, it may be because of the virus that we have come to understand life better at the level of microorganisms, like corals. Historically, we have never been pushed to understand non-human forms of life. We develop „protection“ impulses and ideas of care, but, to be honest, till very recently they were all presenting us – humans – as the ones capable of damaging, but also of rescuing the planet. However, in the last decades, we have witnessed both from science and art, a growing interest in listening to nature. Yes, you are understanding correctly! Listening to nature! It is not a metaphor but an invitation to reprogram all your senses, to tell your eyes about eyes that can see underwater, in the blueness of the Oceans; to tell your ears that the sounds of the seas are conversations of which we do not know a thing about; to tell your hands that the touch of fish scales is the touch of skin…

In the last years, Claudia Comte has been invested in understanding – through her work – the relationships between different forms of life. Materials do not only have a memory, but they also possess a knowledge about the environments they belong to. Wood remembers the forest. The Forests embody the thousands of symbiotic processes that allow air, energy, breathing, growing, food, shelter. What happens when you discover a cactus at the core of a tree? To shape a tropical tree in the form of a cactus is like asking the tree about all the forms a plant would be able to take to survive in extreme conditions. In seeing these cactuses emerging from the noble woods of the Jamaica forests, we are reminded of the multiple stages of storytelling through which we encounter the stories of nature. Funny: cactuses have such a presence in comics. We, humans, see in them a form similar to ours, standing there, in the harsh conditions of the desert, they survive, as we aspire to do.

Cactuses, though, have been coexisting lately with another form: corals. They are formally not far apart even if they are so different. Corals represent exuberance, a collaboration between animals and plants, production of oxygen, beauty…they are the gems of the Oceans and in danger of perishing. Corals in wood! It makes sense, they are oxygen providers, like trees. They are also in danger due to the ocean acidification. Soft in their new bodies made of wood, or hard and telling about their death, their stone future made of marble, this sculpture group addresses the importance of relating to every material as a carrier, as a storyteller, as a substance willing to create a bond between what is alive and its permanence. The exhibition of these two families of corals allows us to see ourselves seeing these processes and reflecting on the magnificence of art revealing life in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. The coral series is a fundamental exercise in understanding something crucial: how human impact alters the transformation of natural forms. And materials are capable of speaking the tongue of corals.


Press release

"Jungle and Corals" presents new sculptural works produced while Claudia Comte was on residency last year in Jamaica at the Alligator Head Foundation as a fellow of the TBA21–Academy. Alongside the coral sculptures in the exhibition are a series of paintings that were produced in Comte’s new studio in Basel last year. "Jungle and Corals" interweaves nature and popular culture through forms and patterns that coalesce in space. The exhibition foregrounds the artist’s keen interest in the natural world through her idiosyncratic representations of mutating flora and fauna. These embodied interpretations offer spaces for active reflection by positioning the viewer within a cool abstract landscape where corals and jungles take primacy.

Also inspired by her residency in Jamaica, it is the virtual intervention of the gallery’s physical exhibition space where the artist presents "Dreaming of Alligator Head". Entering the digital show via smartphone as a diver, the visitor discovers the former NAVE of the brutalist church submerged in an underwater seascape. Perched amongst marine life are a series of Comte’s cactus sculptures which appear to be sprouting sea fauna. She conjures an impossible scenario by replanting her underwater sculpture park inside the gallery and the digital visitor experiences an intriguing underwater world without traveling, thus the artist raises awareness for marine environments. Comte strives to retain aesthetic formalisms while simultaneously asking how the artistic object can make a difference in the world.

Claudia Comte, Jungle and Corals, 2021, exhibition view, photo by Roman März 
Claudia Comte, Jungle and Corals, 2021, exhibition view, photo by Roman März 
Claudia Comte, Jungle and Corals, 2021, exhibition view, photo by Roman März 
Claudia Comte, Jungle and Corals, 2021, exhibition view, photo by Roman März 
Claudia Comte, Dreaming of Alligator Head, 2021 (screenshot) 
Claudia Comte, Dreaming of Alligator Head, 2021 (screenshot) 

Featured image: Claudia Comte, Dreaming of Alligator Head, 2021 (screenshot)

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The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
CRAC Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée, Sète
Eugster || Belgrade, Belgrade
Istituto Svizzero, Rome
Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Peres Project, Berlin