It was a love of animals and the desire to preserve them that first caused British artist Polly Morgan to learn taxidermy back in 2005, which soon developed into her creating still lives with animals as the subject. Growing up in the Cotswolds, where there were always many, often unusual, pets around in the family home, Morgan has always had a close relationship with animals, which is apparent in the way she delicately creates her beautiful sculptural works.
Not wanting to merely mimic the natural habitats of her subjects, Morgan places them in unexpected and unnatural settings, often off-scale, in order to encourage the viewer to look at them with fresh eyes and with no preconceptions. Foxes, rats and pigeons are presented as animals of beauty surrounded by chandeliers and champagne glasses, as opposed to fearful disease-carrying pests. The result is a ‘magical’ body of work that makes us contemplate and consider our own mortality. Morgan believes there’s nothing morbid about a fascination with taxidermy and that studying living forms is one of the most natural things in the world; for her, the skinning of an animal is compelling and can be an overall calming experience. Having worked previously in restaurant kitchens, she sees her working practice as not dissimilar from how a butcher works – not seeing the animals as creatures that once lived and breathed, but rather as raw materials for her work, like a painter may view their paint. She would never use animals she knew in life in her sculptures; this according to Morgan would add a new, uncomfortable dimension that she’s not ready to breach, once saying “I have a pet dog and I definitely wouldn’t want to go near him with a scalpel when he is dead.”
Born in 1980, Morgan currently lives and works in London. Her first exhibitions included Zoo Art Fair and Banksy’s ‘Santa’s Ghetto’ in London at the end of 2005. Since then she’s shown at Lazarides Gallery, Bonham’s, White Cube and All Visual Arts, and her most recent solo show was at Haunch of Venison in September 2010. In the past few years the price of Morgan’s sculpture has escalated, with some pieces fetching up to £100,000 a piece. Well known collectors include Anita Zabludowicz, David Roberts and Thomas Olbricht, as well as Damien Hirst, Banksy, Kate Moss and Courtney Love. We’re excited to have worked with Morgan on two limited edition lithographs printed at The Curwen Studio. Both titled ‘Myocardial Infarction’ and depicting a group of Love Birds feeding from a human heart, the prints follow the concept of Morgan’s work, focussing on the utilization of death, whilst referencing the drawings of 19th century illustrators such as Edward Lear and John James Audubon.