Remains To Be Seen, Snape Maltings

I returned today to ‘Remains To Be Seen’, a poetic, meditative exhibition spread over the site at Snape Maltings, showing the work of Paul Benney, Laurence Edwards and Kiki Smith. It is part of the Aldeburgh Festival and runs until 26th June.

It is impressively curated by Isabel de Vasconcellos and feels very much an exhibition for the moment: a meditation on mortality, belief, and survival, and on the fragility and strangeness of the human body.

Laurence Edwards’ stateless bronze figures wander into the reed beds at Snape, carrying the accoutrements of their survival with them. They might be figures returning from, or going to war. Another figure, titled Heft carries a great bundle of sticks in the opposite direction, as if building a shelter from storm-fallen branches.

Kiki Smith’s large bronze sculpture, Seer (Alice I) drifts through the largest gallery, an image of monumental innocence and mystery. Alongside are paintings by Paul Benney which play on the paradox of legibility and mystery in religious painting, and also Minotaurus a self-portrait wearing an intriguing candelabra headpiece.

Elsewhere, Edwards shows a bronze sculpture made from a clay model of a frozen barn owl, with the attached story that the sculpture was lost twenty years ago, but then miraculously dug up by a friend last Easter.

Kiki Smith’s Girl with Stars echoes the form of Seer (Alice I), a childlike figure suspended in a magical space. She looks over a bronze cadaver, A Thousand Tides, by Edwards, itself surrounded by animated paintings by Benney, showing candles burning down in bell jars, turning into smoke.

One of the most striking stories is that behind Benney’s painting of an Icarus figure falling through a large industrial space. It is recognisable, by the skylight and gantry, as the Turbine Hall, now Tate Modern. Benney tells the story that his father, the goldsmith Gerald Benney, had his workshop nearby, and that as a child, Paul and friends would break into the derelict power station and run wild in the Turbine Hall, building dens and camps, like the one he shows illuminated in his painting.

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