Colleen Morice - 'EDEN: Cabinet of Wonder'

Wednesday 1 - Saturday 18 June 2022


Click here for artwork by Colleen Morice

Of course, it started with a story…
I have always been fascinated by cabinets of curiosities and, as I wondered about what to do with the collection of feathers I was finding while hiking in Victoria, I reconnected with that passion. I started researching cabinets of curiosities in more detail to understand their origin, their use and where they sit in relation to art history.

Humans through history have had a thirst for discovery and contemplation and there is no wonder many children (including the child that I am) feel the need to collect everything that looks beautiful, unusual and intriguing. My first memory of collecting is picking up sea shells on the beach as a child, sorting them and displaying them on my shelves - the same way my grandfather did with the fossils and stones in his own custom made glass cabinet. The notion of legacy came to my awareness pretty quickly when one day I found an old wooden box in the basement of our house. It was full of a mishmash of stuff. In it were some beautiful, exotic sea shells belonging to another continent. I rushed to add them to my collection, having the feeling that I had enriched it enormously.
My mum told me that in fact those were given to her when she was little and that she also had added them to her box of treasures.

And so things that are cherished and marvelled at often sustain the test of time and are passed on from one hand to another, and that alone has always made me tremendously happy.

On my dig for knowledge about those boxes of wonders, I discovered that collections made into cabinets of curiosities were the first museums on the planet. At the time of the first major explorations made by Columbus and other explorers, wonderful things from afar were brought back to Europe and displayed proudly as a sign of worldliness and wealth from the owner. The discussion about the ethics of this is ongoing, but what is sure is that those collections became fantastic attractions amongst social circles, being presented likethe encyclopaedias of the time. Eventually, in the 18th century, a period  when scholars had the need to classify everything, most of the big collections were split up, sorted into categories and sent to the brand new museums and institutions specialised in
natural history, anthropology, civilisations, pictorial and sculptural art etc…

Realising that the first cabinets of curiosities where composed of bones, fossils, artefacts, paintings, sculptures, maps, celestial globes and other marvels really fulfils the other name used to describe them, ‘cabinets of wonder’.  

With my exhibition, EDEN, I wanted to create this feeling of gathering pieces from different realms and give them the chance to coexist in the same room, achieving a sense of fullness and contemplation.

From there, I started to think about how to create cabinets of curiosities with bird feathers, how to encapsulate the beauty of certain plants and trees and how to recreate the emotion I felt when seeing the Victorian sky and nature in its element. Result - this little collection, made of cabinets of feathers and related bird illustrations, bronze sculptures, art installations and ink paintings inspired by the abstract expressionist movement and artists from the East, such as Zhang Daqian. I added words to accompany some of the pieces as an extension of their stories.

EDEN is my celebration of nature and my invitation to embrace, nurture and protect it for the generations to come. It is my search for a path heading towards legacy and my journey as such feels very much like a new beginning, continuously inspired by the beauty that surrounds me wherever I am in the world.

Colleen Morice