The Unicorn Surrenders to a Maiden Cartoon
PLAZA PLAZA, London
09 Jun — 10 Jul 2023
The Unicorn Surrenders To A Maiden Cartoon inaugurates a new body of work – here an installation of large-scale figurative collage – which critically engages depictions of pre-modern Europe in both tapestries and mass media genre fantasy.
The work draws on The Unicorn Surrenders To A Maiden, a badly damaged 16th Century Flemish tapestry which survives today in two fragments and hangs in the Met Cloisters as part of a famous series of tapestries known as The Hunt of the Unicorn.
At the time of the French Revolution, the original tapestries were owned by the House of Rochefoucauld who were members of the French nobility. Such artifacts were often destroyed or expropriated in acts of iconoclasm against the Ancien Régime, which is likely why only fragments of the tapestry remain.
The surviving remnants are pockmarked by areas of damage and repair, forming a material index of revolutionary events, each one a fraying, tearing and patching up of Europe’s historical narrative.
In The Unicorn Surrenders to a Maiden Cartoon, the fantastic scenes depicted in the tapestry is re-made as a ‘cartoon’, or 1:1 scale working drawing made for the production of a tapestry.
Here, the rarefied hortus conclusus of the Unicorn is invaded by monstrous entities. Their forms are Frankensteined together with limbs, heads, faces and personal effects from an array of sources. Some hands hold scissors or craft knives, suggesting that they have collaged
themselves together before cutting and pasting themselves into the world of the tapestries, exploiting its sutured wounds as entry points. Limbs are multiplied and entangled, and faces are made up from folded, torn, and recomposed layers of background and foreground. It's difficult to tell where distinct bodies begin and end or whether they are destroying or building the world they inhabit.