Theodora Allen: Saturnine. Stephanie Cristello (Ed.). Motto Books

Posted in Artist Book, books, Motto Books on March 19th, 2021 by v r
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Published by Motto Books

Catalogue of Theodora Allen’s solo exhibition Saturnine
Kunsthal Aarhus
14.05–18.07.2021

On a summer evening in July 1610, under the humid Padua sky, Galileo peered through his crude telescope to discover the rings of Saturn, the furthest planet then known. While Galileo set his sight on Saturn, it came into view slowly. Ancient Greek and Roman theory, and later medieval psychology, had correlated four planets with each of the elements and temporal ‘humours’; Jupiter’s persuasion prevailed in the blood and affected a sanguine nature; Mars ruled aggression; the moon was cause for an apathetic disposition. The fourth and final humour, inspired by ringed Saturn, was responsible for melancholy. It is for this reason we have the term ‘saturnine’ to describe sadness. The sight of Saturn is one of sorrow.

Kunsthal Aarhus presents Saturnine, the first institutional solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Theodora Allen. Interweaving the artist’s emblematic use of symbols, the exhibition engages with a history of Saturn, the celestial body said to have been the cause of a melancholic disposition – from ancient myth and the Middle Ages through to the present. At times appearing as itself, a large ringed orb, and at others as affect, the figure of the planet joins Allen’s representations of recurrent motifs that are informed by cultural and emotional influence.

Alongside Saturn, depictions of markers such as serpents, wildfires, moths, hourglasses and hallucinogenic plants present a language that is seen rather than uttered. Within the emblematic tradition – a form positioned squarely between visual arts and literature, grappling equally with both image and text – Allen’s compositions exist as propositions of impossibilities. As concepts, they transport the viewer elsewhere: into different times, different narratives. Steeped in mythmaking and iconography, the paintings are resonant with the visionary work of poets and painters in early Symbolist graphic arts, as well as resurgences of this aesthetic in the zeitgeist of 1970s California, addressing cyclical, enduring themes of human versus nature that withstand in our contemporary moment.

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