Feb. 18, 2020

Diana Thorneycroft’s Black Forest explores the grotesque, the uncanny and otherness

New winter exhibition at Nickle Galleries raises questions about ‘humanimal’ art

The new exhibition at Nickle Galleries, Black Forest (dark waters), brings together three interconnected bodies of work by Canadian artist Diana Thorneycroft. 

The two sculptural installations are presented as physical evidence of the cryptic narrative that unfolds in the photographs. Thematically, the work addresses issues of difference, alteration, abjection; all tied together as in a fairy tale.

Herd consists of more than 150 plastic toy horses, half of which have been altered, galloping up a 40-foot ramp. At the end of the ramp, which is covered with a blanket of snow, the horses appear to leap through the gallery wall. While the familiar shapes and the stiff action poses remain for some of the horses, others are disfigured and morphed: melted, mangled, and altered with prosthetics, pieces of wood, nails, badger claws, bones, hair, and teeth. These horses appear at once vulnerable and powerful, tamed and wild.

The photographic series Black Forest (dark waters) explores the relationship between horses and the humanoid keepers of their herd. The horses, herdsmen, and their interactions exist in the realm of the uncanny and the grotesque; informed by fairy tales and mythology, the Black Forest is a dangerous place that provides the stage for intersecting dynamics of power, violence, ritual, desire, and care.

Herd by Diana Thorneycroft, installation at Nickle Galleries, 2020.

Herd by Diana Thorneycroft, installation at Nickle Galleries, 2020.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

Herd by Diana Thorneycroft, installation at Nickle Galleries, 2020.

Herd by Diana Thorneycroft, installation at Nickle Galleries, 2020.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

The third body of work, Village, displayed on a large low plinth, consists of strange architectural constructions that “house” the herdsmen and some of the horses. Not unlike the sentient beings presented in the installation, the buildings, huts, chairs, swings, ladders etc. are structurally flawed and embellished with a myriad of equally unorthodox textures.

“Whether in personal or cultural domains, her work leads us to the edge between the familiar and the unknown, the disturbing and the tender, the abject and the strong, between dark humour and horror,” explains Christine Sowiak, chief curator at Nickle Galleries. “Whatever vehicle or proxy is in use, Thorneycroft looks at us, at humans and humanity — perhaps never more clearly than through the fantastic beastiery that waits in the gallery.”

Thorneycroft is a Winnipeg artist who has exhibited various bodies of work across Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as in Moscow, Tokyo and Sydney. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction, an Assistance to Visual Arts Long-Term Grant from the Canada Council, several Senior Arts Grants from the Manitoba Arts Council and a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre for the Arts.  Her work is represented locally at the Christine Klassen Gallery.

The exhibition, organized by Nickle Galleries, with exhibition catalogue by Art Gallery of Burlington, runs until April 11, 2020.

Diana Thorneycroft acknowledges support for the exhibition and tour from the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council.

The weekly Nickle at Noon event series features related talks and gallery tours. All events are free and open to the public. Learn more by subscribing to updates from Nickle Galleries.