Curator's Picks: Anna Souter - Secret Auction 2019

Anna Souter - @annasouter 

Anna Souter is an independent writer and curator based in London, with a particular interest in the intersections between contemporary art, nature and the environment. Her writing spans fiction and non-fiction, and has appeared in publications including Hyperallergic, Artsy and Burlington Contemporary. She also curates exhibitions about art and ecology. 

We asked Anna to select her top 5 artworks from our Secret Auction 2019.

Can you guess the artist behind each artwork?

Lot 83 - Winter Wilderness (Glazed acrylic on card)
This little painting speaks of the strangely simultaneous senses of harmony and uncertainty that often accompany an unexpected snowfall. The process of applying white paint becomes mimetic of the snowfall itself, blotting out the edges of the bare-branched tree and blurring the distinction between land, sky and frozen water. 

Lot 214 - The Way of Flowers (Paper and ink on paper)

I like how the idea of the floral is evoked here without making a direct visual reference to flowers. The torn coloured paper suggests the delicacy of petals, while scribblings in ink recall notions of growth, roots and stems. A half-disintegrated piece of detritus blooms from the paper, a memento mori from the age of throwaway consumerism. 

Lot 246 - Monkey (Oil on paper)
A monkey, captured in oils, sits stiffly as if it knows its portrait is being taken. Is it a costume? A cartoon? A toy? The monkey stares unsettlingly out, both sweet and sinister, happy and sad. It reminds me of childhood’s intense certainty that playthings – and, by extension, other objects and other species – have emotions, personalities and lives of their own. 

Lot 301 - Tree Seedlings (Acrylic on map fragment (London map))

To my mind, trees represent everything that’s good about the world – and everything that could be good about human beings, if we only chose to be more like the generous beings that create the oxygen we breathe. This image is beautifully ambiguous. Does it suggest plants coming back to colonise our cities after humanity has destroyed itself? Or do the half-legible street names below the acrylic surface suggest we can reach a happy medium where humans live happily alongside trees? It may be up to us to decide. 

Lot 478 - Moon Cat (Oil on card)

This is fabulously whacky, plus with Halloween/Samhain coming up, I’ve got witches on the brain. More significantly, though, witchcraft and the figure of the witch (whose cat ‘familiar’ we perhaps see here) have been cropping up with increasing frequency in contemporary art practices. Perhaps taking a cue from philosopher Silvia Federici, witchery takes on a complex nexus of associations suggesting an alternative feminist mode of thinking that runs against the traditional trajectory of patriarchal capitalism. Plus, that cat has the sassiest facial expression I’ve ever seen. 

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