A nearly still visitor lies quietly on one of three narrow golden benches. Hanging above is a constellation of resin orbs, each preserving the captured form of baby’s breath, lichen or spiders. On a nearby wall, inked black birds stretch from floor to high ceiling—some look like they are dead, some seem to struggle to get away.
Scattered around the room, resin crystals explode from porcelain hares—symbolizing the transition when the soul exits a body. In a series of large detailed watercolour and ink illustrations, human hands reach inside the open bodies of a goat, a hare and a moose. I peer into a porthole on the gallery wall and an interactive ocean translates my breath to breeze.
Philippa Jones’s new body of work, Suspended, presents a space in which to consider mortality, where a spectrum of death seems possible in the expanse between fresh loss and a longer span of time. Jones’s massive illustrations of necropsies, for example, are metaphors for how we seek answers following loss.
I think about autopsies. Can knowing a medical reason for death ease our mourning? In conversation, Jones talks me through the necropsies that she observed for her research and explains why the order of testing is so important to the process of identifying a definite cause of death. Jones is equally methodical in her practice. She reveals truths by opening space for imagination through investigation, experience and artifacts.
I lie down on one of the golden benches and reflect. We perform rituals for ourselves in our grief, searching to find meaning. It is clear that Jones made this work for her personal process, and in doing so she guides us to consider our own. Suspended is a painstakingly deliberate inquiry into loss, and an autopsy in its own right.