By Sharna Hughes
Spanish artist Mara Sola works across diverse media including, photography, oil painting, water-colours, sculpture and installation.
Sola’s current exposition The Porcupine’s Dilemma is a captivating and imaginative response to the porcupine’s and the humanoid’s shared conundrum in both needing to protect and connect in their lived experience as mammals. Sola has created a landscape where we explore this dilemma and the interface between nature and emotion. One level of the exhibition displays eccentric life-like animal forms using a wide range of materials, fur, paper, fabric, dry flowers and seeds. And on another level water-colour paintings, strangely both fanciful and recognisable.
The exhibition’s evocative title borrows from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s metaphor of the Porcupine’s Dilemma. The porcupine, a small slow creature, needs to carry on its back sharp quills to protect itself from attack, and yet there in its soft pink, teated underbelly is the aptitude for connection. But what happens mused Schopenhauer, on a cold winter’s night where not wanting to be out in the elements alone, the porcupine might need to huddle close to his fellow porcupines? The trouble with huddling so close is that inevitably the porcupines will stab each other. Similarly, we as humans will suffer our greatest wounding through our most intimate encounters. The closer we get, the more vulnerable we are, and yet we too, like the humble porcupine, do not survive well being out in the cold darkness on our own. Sola’s exhibition evokes a visceral and aesthetic response to this universal dilemma, as the viewer navigate their own receptive and defensive modes in proximity to the work.
There is something at once disturbing and humorous in the raw vulnerability of Sola’s imagined critters and creepy crawlies. And likely to feel compelled to stroke the head of a one her strange creatures, we might then muse on our own sensory and emotional network, for ours too is an organism that feels fear and threat acutely. And yet within a nervous system built to flee or fight, there are so many pathways built for connecting
An extended theme of this exhibition that cannot be overlooked is that Sola may simply be demonstrating her ability to play as both creator God and created, setting for herself a laboratory to sculpt from natural materials her own variety of species. In doing so the show casts the atmosphere of a mad botanist’s menagerie.
Sola provides an honest, questioning and daring study into a universal dance of intimacy, and the emotions surrounding it.