Found plastic wing, eel jaw, human hair, heron feet, fake nails, alligator skin, plastic Barbie tail. The material list for Julie Maurin‘s current solo exhibition ’(m)other’ reads like the strangest of shopping lists or the ingredients for a particularly potent witch’s potion. However, sourced by scouring car boot sales or second-hand stores, scavenging in the street, combing beaches or trawling eBay, each eccentric artefact or quirky curios is incorporated into the artist’s odd, unsettling assemblages. Objet d'art reminiscent of derelict dollhouses or creepy cabinets of curiosity, these slate sculptural reliefs, themselves cut into bodily, biological or botanical shapes based on the artist’s supporting sketches, hang menacingly off blackened butchers hooks. Daubed with slime, sludge or other unexplained spills, these slabs set the stage for playful, playtime storytelling.
Here, Maurin employs an experimental and improvisational approach to narrative, as if restricted by the limited contents of one’s childhood toy chest. We witness the marriage of two plastic figurines, officiated by a faux hairpiece and overseen by cured chicken and dried heron feet. These intimate moments, as well as familiar fragments - a bouncy ball, butterfly love locket, Cinderella slipper or deconstructed dinosaur skeleton - muster nostalgic memories, much in the same way that Grimms’ Fairy Tales or Disney films often turn the gruesome or the grotesque from disgusting to delightful. Yet with titles such as Break Me or Use Me, dark refrains are never far from view.
The central sculpture appears to crawl crab-like from the corner of South Parade‘s space, recalling the lupine antagonist of Little Red Riding Hood it stalks the visitors to Deptford’s Resolution Way gallery row. A crouched collage of cast limbs, further herons’ feet as well as deer hooves and human calves, create a Frankenstein’s monster, one from the mind of a twisted taxidermist. An amalgamation of the organic and the synthetic, its expanding foam carcass is both scarred with the marks of its making and riddled with piercing porcupine quills, while an aluminium powder patina adds a performative perception of hardened heft. Alongside the anthropomorphic addition of a single strass earring, a thick dusting of human hair across the sculpture’s shins leaves one wincing at the thought of legs waxed during the casting process.