For her exhibition at Large Glass in London, Alice Channer has created a series of entirely new sculptural works. ‘A Coin in Nine Hands - Part 5: Alice Channer (Carapaces)’ is a fascinating celebration of the elaborate figure of a shell. Inspired by Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel ‘A Coin in Nine Hands’ (1993), which recounts the journey of a ten lira coin through the hands of nine different people – a prostitute, an artist and Mussolini’s assassin – this exhibition is part of the gallery’s ambitious project of displaying the work of nine international artists in nine different solo shows over the coming months. All these shows share the same title, ‘A Coin in Nine Hands’ followed by the sequence number. Just as the coin stands as a metaphor for relationships among human beings, so too Large Glass aims at revealing connections among these artists, highlighting some of the hidden connections that bring them together.
Channer’s practice has always explored the relationships between bodies and objects, the natural and the manmade worlds. In the ‘Carapaces’ exhibition, the artist continues this investigation by turning her attention to shells. The word ‘Carapace’ refers to the hard upper shell that covers the backs of a large number of animals, including tortoises, crustaceans and arachnids. The carapace also functions as a protective shield for these encased animals. Such interest reaffirms Channer’s long-lasting fascination with the natural and organic world. In this exhibition, however, the artist has transcended the boundaries of the natural world and created a new, hybrid dimension that embraces the artificial world of fabricated objects.
This concept is most visible in ‘Linear Bivalves’ and ‘Crustacean Satellites’ (2018): two medium to large-scale sculptures that display shells of crabs and clams attached to ropes. Employing what she calls ‘post-industrial’ processes – digital printing and retouching – Channer has covered the carapaces with glistening metallic silver, achieved via a metalising process, which brings to mind the shining appearance of cars. The shimmering silver coating gives a sense of homogeneity to the shells and turns them into unique, individual inorganic beings which offer a unique perspective on industrial and manmade contemporary culture. The fusion between the natural and the artificial world is also present in two sets of photographic works titled ‘Soft Sediment Deformation, Lower Body (quilted grey)’ and ‘Soft Sediment Deformation, Upper Body (quilted grey)’ (2018). Employing scientific terms suggestive of geological processes Channer has photographed rocks and wrapped them in chevron pleats, in such a way that they almost resemble human skin or even the encased armour of crustaceans. The use of chevron, often associated with fashion, contributes to the creation of captivating and alluring works.
‘A Coin in Nine Hands - Part 5: Alice Channer (Carapaces)’ is a fascinating exhibition that allows the visitor to look through the works, giving the impression of being part of them and not just simply looking at them. This new series of works attempts to annul the difference between inside and outside, bodies and their surroundings, natural and artificial worlds, offering a powerful mixture of objects, both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. This is the ultimate aim of the artist, something she attempts to achieve throughout her entire practice, namely to reflect on contemporary culture presenting puzzling and unclear scenarios.