The Law of Unintended Consequences
by Anneke Jaspers
Caroline Rothwell’s drawings, sculptures and installations consider evolving relationships between humans and the natural environment. Drawing upon a diverse range of sources, from first contact drawings to site-specific historical archives, her works extend the apparent objectivity of these found references into fictive territory. The natural becomes peculiar and un-natural, the familiar strange.
In her silver-plated sculptures animals and plants morph into hybrid forms creating toxic tableaux. The impossible little metallic creatures gleam with a kind of fake purity that belies their deviant form. Cast from hand-sewn fabric moulds, the surfaces retain the texture of cloth and appear, despite their solid heaviness, like stuffed toys.
Indeed, Rothwell’s interest in playing with the materiality of her forms turns largely on this contrast between the characteristics we associate with the handcrafted, and those that denote the urban and mass produced. Tactility and delicacy are weighed against the stark, uniform qualities of unnatural substances. In her wall drawings, for example, Rothwell hand-cuts pvc sign-writers vinyl to create large-scale calligraphic landscapes that stretch anamorphously across architectural spaces. Representing natural forms using industrial materials, Rothwell subtly subverts our expectations of the mass produced by insisting on the presence of the hand-made, of human intervention.
Rothwell’s manipulation of scale likewise cultivates a certain ambiguity. Her sculptural incarnations of flora and fauna are always wildly out of proportion – either monumental or miniature – lending a quality of surreal fantasy to the forms. The resulting works, strangely humorous and often nostalgic, draw the viewer into a realm of possibility in which the natural, man-made and imaginary collide.