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I Should Have Been a Pair of Ragged Claws

Orsola Zane
22 March - 30 April, 2022


Daniel Benjamin Gallery is pleased to present I Should Have Been a Pair of Ragged Claws, an exhibition of paintings and installations by London based Italian artist, Orsola Zane, in her first solo show in London. 


Addressing the question of self-perception; the works combine self-centred repetition, a sense of imminent threat, deflective humour and a feeling of inability to meet societal expectations regarding interaction, bonding and communication.

Through oil painting and ceramic sculpture, Zane investigates themes of isolation, anxiety, loss of individuality and memory.
Blank stares, murky colours, sharp objects and eerie creatures provoke a growing sense of discomfort or even threat with an unnerving atmosphere, heightened by their domestic settings. 

Despite digging into the unmotivated fears and problematic approaches to social interaction, there is no therapeutic or reparative intent to Zane’s practice. The focus is instead on isolating and preserving the quiet terror that denotes the moment before the strike, before the violent or self-destructive act is completed. 

Hence Zane’s artworks are not the metaphorical cure to this plague of depersonalisation and anxiety, but rather “a will to put under a glass dome, to put in a reliquary, to expose and mummify”, as she explains in her own words. 

Zane draws inspiration from a wide range of references; from historical depictions of Christian martyrs and family photographs to found footage from raves and Italian children’s TV shows, Zane’s subjects are denied the privilege of identity. They hover in the uncomfortable intermediary space between the sacred and profane, relevance and irrelevance; they are both threatening and threatened. 

The materials employed are often glossy and hyper-artificial when dealing with fictionalised projections of the self. Whereas, earthy and matte surfaces are visible in more raw or intrusive representations. 

The exhibition consists of three instillation works that are pivotal points to develop the meaning of the paintings and Zane’s practice clearer, the two bodies of works compliment and complete each-other. 


In all three installations, the reoccurring crabs and hermits are a representation of the vulnerable being, with or without the shell, they are exposed to the outside world’s dangers and risks. The suspended anvils above the hermits are the representations of the imminent danger and therefore, the anxiety’s presence. 


The threatening object, however, never fulfils its sacrificial purpose: it stands suspended one fraction of a second before the strike. Since the body can only be “made sacred” (sacra factum) through the completion of the act, this lack of ending leaves the body in a state between existence and non-existence, between self and otherness in a state of uncomfortableness.


The works in this exhibition inject a ridiculous element within the sombreness of news stories. Absurd narratives hint at a system of conspiracies, mockery and fabricated memories that instil doubt in the truthfulness and humanity of the images. 


Historical and intimate moments are absorbed through the title into the glazed sensationalism of local newspapers’ curiosities: Lady D’s death is turned into a bowling accident. Through this mockery Zane lightly questions the ‘sacredness’ of public figures and their status of being untouchables.


The concept of the bedside table installation is the human body turned inside-out, using the table, she represents the body and the skin as a boxed cage which is used as a trap. 

“A trap that is constructed by one’s self to asphyxiate and yet provide shelter”.

Orsola Zane (b.1997) is an MFA Fine Art student at Goldsmiths, University of London. Zane’s works have been recently part of Bloomberg’s New Contemporaries (2021) at the South London Gallery.

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