As a species with the power to imagine, we have a complicated relationship with the idea of disaster – of the apocalypse, of Armageddon. Of course we do not wish our own destruction, but we find it impossible not to envisage the event, to construct narratives around the end of the world: the skies turning black and the waters rising. Despite ourselves, we are drawn to images that visualise our inner fears and, more recently, our sense of guilt at the damage we know that we do to the planet.
Chinese-Australian installation artist, Shen Shaomin, works precisely within this psychological repertoire, his visions of a warped natural world tapping into anxieties about civilisation’s ghastly effects. His Unknown Creatures (2003) and Experimental Studio (2004) series consisted of sculptures made out of bone – bizarre and unsettling collections of fantastic animals created through errant biological mutation; while later his Bonsai Series (2007), exhibited at the Sydney Biennale in 2012, comprised of a range of miniature trees, tortured into shape with bolts and wire.
The Day After Tomorrow, Shen Shaomin’s first solo show in Australia in ten years, continued with this eerie aesthetic, expanding further on the themes of human brutality and its impact on a fragile environment. Showing at Gallery 4A between 15 November – 10 December 2011, the exhibition transformed the greater part of the gallery into a white crystalline world twinkling in darkness, evoking a vision of an unnatural reality hovering somewhere between the near future and present.