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The Eyes of the Skin

A conceptual artist's first solo show explores the duality of human nature using hairnets, fish hooks and more

by Karen Day in Culture on 08 November 2011

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Rubber dairy hoses, human hair, fish hooks and other oddities serve as standard materials for Manchester-based artist Susie MacMurray, who explores the human condition with a beautifully eerie approach. Curious about life's delicate balance, MacMurray explains she is fascinated by "how amazing and successful we are" and yet how "fragile and weak" we can be, and her unsettling compositions and shapes poetically express this duality.

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MacMurray often experiments with concepts in her studio, but much of her work is site-specific, making her current London exhibition at Agnew's Gallery the first to encompass a range of her talents in one location. "The Eyes of the Skin" showcases various drawings, sculptures and large-scale installations which give physical form and emotional context to her questions about seduction and repulsion.

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The symmetry in her work seemingly serves as a metaphorical seesaw, representing the ability we have as humans to easily shift from one point to another, from calm to chaos. It's this type of tension that captivates MacMurray, and from her thoughtful nature comes meaningful, striking work. Household gloves turned inside out, hairnets and Saran wrap are transformed to make ethereal statements about what it means to celebrate life when death is an inevitable outcome.

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Her painstaking production methods and theatrical executions mark the upshot of her former career as a professional bassoonist, during which she gleaned insight on the importance of creating a piece that reaches people viscerally, not just as an intellectual narrative. In an effort to explore her own concepts instead of following the lead of a conductor, MacMurray retrained as an artist and struck out on her own in 2001.

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Ten years later, MacMurray's oeuvre contains an impressive array of works that turn banal objects into elegant displays of thought. "The Eyes of the Skin" is on view at Agnew's Gallery from 09 November through 04 December 2011. Those in London can also check out her piece entitled "Widow"—an evening gown made of black leather and nearly 100 pounds of dressmakers pins—at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the group exhibition "Power of Making" through 02 January 2012.

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