Cooke Latham Gallery is pleased to present Eating a Peach (A hair’s breadth escape) by Anousha Payne as the fifth instalment of our online Isolation Exhibitions and a precursor to the artist’s duo exhibition at the gallery in December 2021. An accompanying Tamil Folklore short story is available here.
At the heart of Anousha Payne’s practice is the idea of the object as a cultural and spiritual signifier. A visual anthropologist she mines cultures, religions and folklore to produce her own unique imagined artefacts. In Eating a Peach (A hair’s breadth escape) snakes are present throughout the work. A loaded symbol, the serpent represents fertility, creativity, eternity and original sin as interpreted by different cultures. In Payne’s ceramics these attributes are reimagined; like sloughed skins the works retain the impression and power of these beliefs but are also uniquely their own.
Eating a Peach (A hair’s breadth escape) derives in part from Tamil folklore. Folklore is by virtue a fluid art form, often relayed by word of mouth, a medium which can change and mutate over time. As such it is the perfect inspiration for Payne’s mercurial practice. Payne describes her works as “hybrid objects that remind us of the fluidity between human, animal and inanimate objects.” This concept of animism, the belief that all material phenomena have agency, perhaps even sentience, is queried throughout.
Material hierarchies and values are also questioned by the work. The earthy malleability of clay is combined with the metallic glazes and shiny emblems of consumer culture. Clay assumes fleshy folds, is punctured by a Dior-like toggle or grounded by a plait of coarse hair. Their textural ambiguity mimics their conceptual fluidity. Looking at them the viewer is aware that these could be objects of veneration or utility. They are works open to endless interpretation; herein lies their power.
Eating a Peach
by Anousha Payne
I look on into the distance and watch as she bites into a peach; a flat (donut) peach to be specific. As she bites down, her lip blisters, red boiling lumps shining in the sun.
She continues to eat, oblivious to the scene that her skin is making. It ripples and glistens bumpy and irregular, oscillating between concave and convex, flowing through her entire body until it reaches all the way to her toes.
She looks down at her scaled feet, shivering and shaking off the illusion. She returns to her normal/human form, but as she turns to face me I see her eyes are not human but serpent-like slits. She acknowledges that I have witnessed her temporary shuddering transformation, then returns her attention to the peach. An ordinary woman laying out on a faded red beach town in the sun, eating a peach as she looks out to sea.