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This report is taken from PN Review 269, Volume 49 Number 3, January - February 2023.

Leafy Speafing Rod Mengham
The experimental forms that fill the work of Rachel Kneebone combine the morphology of both flesh and vegetation: they are forms that appear to extend and elaborate the structure and operations of the human body through a form of mimicry, allowing limbs, organs and members to multiply, fuse and migrate according to principles of growth and proliferation that are more familiar to us from the plant kingdom. Kneebone’s entire oeuvre, and each work forming part of this oeuvre, is a chain of synecdoches, of parts standing in for wholes, or, to be more precise, of parts mimicking the morphology of wholes. Organs take on the role of torsos, or outgrow the scale of the individual torso. Body-like forms are improvised from a selection of mismatched parts. Egg forms emerge from the meshing of tendrils. Root systems mirror the behaviour of tentacles. The fundamental combinatory process at work in her sculptural practice resembles a form of inspired malapropism.

What seems to fuel the fiercely persistent growth that is evident in all her work is partly mythological and art historical in inspiration, and partly something that is the very antithesis of culture and tradition. The pedestals, columns and brackets that behave like formal quotation marks in her work are put under so much pressure that we can never be sure where the quotations begin or end, or what their provenance is. Although the echoes of tradition are unmistakeable, they are all submerged, as pedestals are cracked and columns strangled by the surging kinds of growth that ...


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