Addressing Animals and Abstract Expressionism

The one-room show ‘Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear’ at the Royal Academy in London presents the latest work of Débora Delmar and Sung Tieu from 2018. Three large-scale photographs of the two semi-naked girls are staged on a jaguar carpet and inside a room filled with taxidermied animals. The works share the space with smaller paintings that are referencing the style of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. While it is needless to say that is a tiger‘s leap from their appropriation of abstract expressionism, which served them as an inspiration– especially Hans Hoffmann’s utterance to Lee Krasner “This is so good, you would never know it was done by a woman”–to their own interspecies photography, the collection of works aesthetically hold the whole room beautifully together. It might be the several car mirrors montaged at various heights that invite to reflect back and simultaneously to look at this particular moment in time. I cannot help but wonder what the staging and posing with stuffed animals add to their working through postwar histories of art? What do the animals stand for in their work? And what does then, thinking of Krasner, the provided essay by Jasmine Picot-Chapman add to the show when talking through Derrida’s animal essay and the issues of writing without access to the internet? Male philosophers and artists have dominated the scene for too long, we know that. Looking at the walls of the room from an interdisciplinary animal studies-art historical-performance perspective, the question of what female nakedness and dead animals add to the discourses and histories of performance art today is ambiguously posed and still in need to be further explored. The inanimate creatures do not only partly cover the naked bodies of the young women, but also reveal something that is still uncensored within the arts.


Sung Tieu, Blue, White, Blue (after Rothko), 2018.
Indonesian plaid fabric & threads on stretcher. 90 x 90 cm. Photo credit: Andy Keate.
Débora Delmar and Sung Tieu, Débora Delmar, Sung Tieu, Nudes, Baboons, Zebra, Giraffe, Springbok, 2018.
Digital print on vinyl. 151 x 112 cm. Photo credit: Andy Keate.
Débora Delmar, Canto II (Mayfair Businessman), 2018.
Richard james bespoke offcut fabrics. 100 x 80 cm. Photo credit: Andy Keate.
Installation view of ‘Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear’, Débora Delmar and Sung Tieu, 2018
Photo credit: Andy Keate.

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