Of Ghosts and Ferns is a very free and extended interpretation of what a still-life painting exhibition could look like today. It brings together the paintings of artists Maria Fernanda Ordoñez (COL) and duo Boskovic-Scarth (CH) under a seemingly random combination of topics: ghosts and ferns.
One would think that these two entities have nothing to do with each other, but according to folktales across Europe in the 16th and 17th century, they share an important trait: invisibility. While ghosts are, per definition, invisible to most people, ferns had the potential to make people invisible. For centuries, humans struggled to explain the propagation of ferns, given that they do not produce flowers or seeds. It seemed like they sprung up by magic, and legends were created to explain this great mystery. It was assumed that since one could not find the elusive fern seed, it must be invisible, a notion that led to the folklore that anyone carrying a fern seed, would also become invisible.
The paintings in the show are evidently visible, but their contents evoke the invisible: some of them are traditional still-life paintings, that (supposedly) remind the viewer about the brevity of human life; others literally represent dead animals—most of them ran over by cars— and their ghosts (Boskovic-Scarth's most recent series of paintings); and a third group depict empty architectural spaces, often mysterious and intimate, which are inhabited by another kind of invisible presence. Ghosts, as we learn from the paintings, can have strange body shapes, but can also be the invisible memories that linger in spaces where other lives were lived.
Ferns, as announced in the title, also appear oftentimes in the exhibition. They belong to Maria Fernanda’s memories of the house where she grew up in Colombia. Their leaves extend and inhabit many of her canvas, but also make a special appearance in one of Boskovic-Scarth’s paintings, an element the duo painted as a nod to Maria Fernanda's works.
Commonly used as ornamental plants and considered minor in their economic importance to humans, ferns are actually very interesting plants. Several hundred million years ago they were the dominant terrestrial plants, making their fossils fundamental to the formation of our fossil fuels. At the same time, ferns have remained almost unchanged from their primeval beings, for which they have also been referred to as living fossils.
The collaboration between Boskovic-Scarth and Ordoñez for this exhibition extends beyond the flat surface of their paintings. Together they will intervene the windows of the space with a collective mural, and will also create a large scale puppet ghost that will do its public appearance on the day of the Finissage, in a procession with music where the ghost will wander through the streets around la_cápsula. Its body will consist of hand coloured cloth strips, similar to fern leaves. The ghost and the procession will be a celebration of life and at the same time, a reminder that one day we will also be ghosts.