Alison Turnbull


15 July – 12 August 2022

MattFlix presents Marpesia (2018) by Alison Turnbull.

The Marpesia merops, the spot-banded daggerwing, is a tropical butterfly found from Guatemala to Brazil. Shot in the Pacific rainforest of Chocó in Colombia, the insect initially appears motionless, possibly even lifeless, but slowly it attempts to warm up its wings.

Marina Warner’s essay, The Mimic Net, describes Turnbull’s process:

‘…the artist would gently cool the butterfly till it fell into a state of hibernation, and then observe it and photograph and film it; afterwards she would warm it up again slowly. The Marpesia merops wakes up, tremulously, shaking out its exquisite veined and dotted wings, before suddenly lifting off and flying free.'

The graph paper, visible in the shadow cast by the butterfly’s wing, is the same material used by Turnbull as a ground for drawings. In temporarily separating it from its dynamic forest habitat, the gridded paper encourages close observation of this delicate insect.

In addition to films and drawings, Alison Turnbull’s time in the Pacific rainforest of Chocó inspired a radio programme for BBC Radio 4, In Pursuit of Beauty, Butterflies in Colombia, and a publication, Psyche Or, the butterfly – an expanded field guide, which includes Marina Warner’s essay.

Marpesia and its companion film, The Setting, are being shown as part of Más Arte Más Acción’s presentation at Documenta 15, Kassel until September 25, 2022.

Duration: 4’18”

Alison Turnbull with Andrés Velez
Nuquí, Chocó 2017/2018

Más Arte Más Acción
British Council

Presented by Matt’s Gallery for MattFlix
With support from Art Fund and Arts Council England