Abstract painting

The Myth of Survival by Rui Matsunaga

This exhibition features a private first-look viewing on the 9th September. Please visit the event page for more details.

The exhibition title points to the links between ‘myths’ and ‘survival’. Survival itself is something of a myth, as we live in a world in which famine, plague and war have not been solved. Meanwhile, we need myths for survival. The ‘human story’ described by Yuval Harari binds humans together by building our social identity as the strongest species on the planet.

In this show, Rui Matsunaga presents another myth for survival: animism. It narrativizes the spirituality possessed by every creature in the world. Humans are not placed at the centre. The framework functions like ecosystem not only to connect people together, but also to connect them with the land or with abstract ideas such as another world.

The small creatures in her works become metaphors of nature and humans, demonstrating our intricate relationships. This delineation references a mythological way of thinking: human and other beings are not so different, constantly communicating and even interchangeable. Inspired by the 12th century Japanese scroll paintings Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga, or Frolicking Animals and People, the paintings visualise the animism of an ambiguous storytelling.

The series of etchings is reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts, The Revelation of St. John (Apocalypse). He described God and His angels as a transcendent hierarchy in which things are valued within dichotomies, such as that between light and shadow, or good and bad. There might be scope for reconsidering how the apocalypse would be depicted today, with more ambiguous images.

We have shared various existential questions regarding the climate crisis, nuclear threats, gene technology and AI. This show ponders the spirituality of interconnectedness and the prospective future of humanity.

About the contributors

Rui Matsunaga
Rui Matsunaga was born in Japan. She trained at the Royal Academy of Art Schools and Central Saint Martin’s in London. Until recently Matsunaga lived and worked in the UK, but she has now returned to Japan. She has held solo exhibitions at The Atkinson (2021), the Paper Gallery in Manchester (2019) and the House of St. Barnabas in London (2016), as well as numerous group shows including the John Moores Painting Prize (2012), Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter (2016) and the Torrance Art Museum in Los Angeles (2011). Her works are in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, University of the Arts London, the Atkinson, Soho House in Amsterdam, the House of St. Barnabas, and the Museum of Senigallia in Italy among others.




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