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Alison Turnbull: If Mimicry Minded 21 April–29 April 2018 Observatory 15 September–31 October 2010 Hospital 9 April–1 June 2003 | Publications | Editions | Artist’s Website

Alison Turnbull | If Mimicry Minded | 21 April–29 April 2018, daily 12–6pm | Private View: Fri 20 April 2018, 6–9pm | 92 Webster Road, London, SE16 4DF

Alison Turnbull, Open, 2018, oil, enamel and silverpoint on canvas. Image by Jonathan Bassett, courtesy of the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London.

Press Information
Alison Turnbull's personal interest in moths and butterflies provides a point of departure for her third exhibition at Matt's Gallery.

If Mimicry Minded borrows its title from a short, scientific note by the writer and celebrated lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977). "I discovered in nature the non-utilitarian delights that I sought in art." wrote Nabokov. "Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception." Nabokov dealt with mimicry within a group of butterflies known as the 'Blues'. However, it is the Crimson-patched Longwing and other Heliconius butterflies that have become iconic in the understanding of mimicry.

In 2017 Turnbull travelled to Chocó, Colombia at the invitation of Más Arte Más Acción to study butterflies in the Pacific rainforest, working alongside Dr Blanca Huertas, Senior Curator in Lepidoptera at the Natural History Museum, London.

From this visit Turnbull has developed a series of observational watercolours produced from butterfly specimens gathered on her trip. The Heliconius melpomene vulcanus exhibited here exercised particular fascination and these works mark a distinctive detour or byway within the artist's practice as a painter.

The subject of mimicry resonates with Turnbull's thinking about painting and the processes of mapping, transcription and conversion that are evident throughout her work. Turnbull translates images from 'real' or found sources onto the abstract surface of her carefully worked paintings. In a new, predominantly white painting, juxtaposed with the butterflies, Turnbull sets up a tension between the differences and repetitions of her layered motifs, emphasised in the mirroring she sets in play.

The works exhibited form part of an extended project. Later in the year Turnbull will publish Psyche or, The Butterfly, an expanded field guide and in June present a programme on butterflies for BBC Radio 4.

If Mimicry Minded is the fifth in a series of 10-day shows at Matt's Gallery.

Alison Turnbull (b. Bogotá, Colombia) lives and works in London, UK.

Download the Press Release.

For further information or visual material please contact us on 020 7237 0398 or email

Matt’s Gallery thanks the Arts Council England and Ron Henocq Fine Art for their generous support. 

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