Rebecca Manson: Leave Love Behind

22 Mar-27 Apr 2024
PV 21 Mar 2024, 6-8pm

Josh Lilley
London W1W 7EX


Josh Lilley is pleased to present Leave Love Behind, the second solo exhibition of US-based artist Rebecca Manson. 

Leave Love Behind celebrates the liberating act of self-abandon in the face of macrocosmic force. Inspired by a recent expedition to the archipelago Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean, Manson’s new large-scale ceramic works, and more intimate stained glass works are forms conjured from study and memory. Continuing her explorations of material transformation and its relationship to anatomical and personal evolution, this latest body of work grounds Manson’s ambitious practice in extraordinary experience, and in this, it finds new depths.

Charting interrelated vectors of nature’s life cycles, Manson brings together symbols of metamorphosis, creating a map of co-dependent, fragile ecosystems. The detached wings of moths, crafted using thousands of individual porcelain pieces, appear latched to the wall; a curio of nature’s life cycles – perhaps a warning of some invisible predator, or a specimen for study. In counter-balance, a large ceramic cabbage – a stalwart of vegetation that can withstand extreme seasonal shifts – provides shelter for chrysalises. Through this interplay of life and death, Manson underscores the mysterious tensions that sustain the ecological world which in turn, offers us strategies for resilience and hope.

Elevating the mundane through both technical virtuosity and symbolic articulation, Manson’s choice of subjects are multi-layered and purposeful. Wings are named for their relationships, some physical and others behavioral to specific species of moth – the butterfly’s often misrepresented kin. Five distinct species of moth are represented across the exhibition, brought together as a register of tacitness; the Speiredonia and Tiger moth, whose striking palettes or compositions are used to deter its prey, or the giant silk moth with its intricate, concertinaed wingspan. Manson likens her process to translation, which begins with microscopic interrogation and follows several courses of interpretation, revealing their underappreciated beauty. The featherweight beings transposed in dense clay embody metamorphosis and contradiction as they drape off the wall like fabric.

A new assemblage of leaves anchors the exhibition – an homage to the unrivaled wonderment of the Arctic terrain. Inspired by patterns of geo-formative shift, whereby icebergs manifest as the detritus of larger glaciers, Manson’s work draws parallels to another seasonal transformation – the Autumnal harvest. Emerging from a drain pipe and amassing below it, entangled with other evidence of human intervention, the work serves as a reminder of ecological impermanence; only temporarily abided, and always at risk of deterioration.

Debuting a new series of works in stained glass, Manson further excavates material as form. Inverting the pliability of clay, Manson tussles with the rigidity of glass, using precision engineering to achieve delicate tendrils, suspended mid-air. Their porous compositions derive from the feeding pattern of the Japanese Beetle, an invasive species that crafts lacework for subsistence. In these patchworks of colour, we are once again confronted by nature’s symbiosis.

Manson’s moorings of wilderness are both beautiful and fraught, bringing with them a sense of ominosity. They are a reminder of that which sustains us and that which levels us, and the line which must be consistently re-navigated. Leave Love Behind is its own expedition, borne by lessons, new horizons, and desires.