REVIEW: The Art of Taxidermy, with Polly Morgan at the Victoria and Albert Museum,

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Wandering through the halls of an empty Victoria and Albert Museum It was like Christmas all over again. If I hadn’t been so keen to see the talk then I may very well have not made it for the 7pm start time at The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy lecture theatre.

Sold out, 250 plus quests enjoyed an interview style talk between Katherine Stout head of programming at the ICA and the taxidermy Artist Polly Morgan.

The lecture hall is magnificent, and equally magnificent were the intriguing collection of photographs being projected throughout the duration of the talk. The slide show projected images of Polly’s work and other work that has inspired her over the length of her Career. I especially loved the time-lapse photographs of her performing taxidermy on a giraffe gifted to her via another artist and a Zoo in Bahrain.
So committed to her work she travelled to Bahrain with her taxidermy boiler suit (yes she even pulled off that look) to work on the animal and then she shipped it back to the UK as taxidermy.

This felt like a very relaxed and honest chat with Polly freely admitting that the absence of time spent in Art school has meant she has been learning on the job, there are no regrets as this massive learning curve has brought her work to where it is at today. It was evident that staying hands on is important to Polly as her ideas develop during the making process. Occasionally she is led by a desire to make a specific sculpture but generally her ideas develop through the availability of the materials.

The word Macabre has been used in context to Polly’s work on more than one occasion and she boldly pointed out what she considers to be mistakes or elements in presenting her work that did not help discourage this connection. Pointing out that some of her compositions and specifically the way she chose to photograph and light the pieces did not help the Gothic nature of her early work.

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Polly experimented with Scale in her solo exhibition entitled Endless Plaines, at All Visual Arts in 2012. In this show she was exploring the relationship between host and parasite. Most recently she has started to free herself from the concern of giving narrative to a piece. Her confidence is growing as she strips more and more away, from the pieces she creates, looking at her recent snake sculptures this is evident. Polly admits she is not sure where her work is going next but she is enjoying her work again after years of being a little disheartened.

It is clear that Polly Morgan loves making dead things look not quite dead, as she put it. This was a great talk her openness and honesty about how her career and creativity have developed inspiring us to follow our passion with the belief that what we create will develop into something you may not be able to imagine right now.

This talk was organised by the V and A membership.

Horniman museum in Dulwich will be showing 12 of her pieces, contemporary taxidermy alongside traditional in March 2015

About Toni Gallagher

Toni Gallagher is an artist living and working in London.