View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Dinomouse Sequel Mutant X 1997 is a black and white screenprint on white wove paper that depicts a confrontation between a dinosaur and a mouse with a human ear emerging from its back. The two creatures face each other within a barren, rocky landscape under a clear sky, with the mouse on its hind legs on the left-hand side and the dinosaur, which is around twice the size of the mouse, standing with its jaws open on the right. Sharp contrasts and deep shadows are prevalent throughout the work, particularly on the bodies of the creatures. The work is signed by the artist on its reverse.
This work was made in London in 1997 by the British artist Abigail Lane and brings together two images taken from different sources. The dinosaur and surrounding landscape are from a still of the 1966 British film One Million Years B.C., directed by Don Chaffey, that Lane scanned into a computer from a book, removing other dinosaurs present in the original scene. Lane then added the image of the mouse with an ear growing on its back, a photograph that was published in 1997 and depicts the results of experiments by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
In combining images from two very different contexts to produce an impossible encounter, Dinomouse Sequel Mutant X may be seen as a response to the development of genetically modified animals and attendant anxieties over the creatures produced in such experiments. The work links the activities of scientists in the 1990s with the anachronistic special effects employed in film production in the 1960s, both of which seem to blur the lines between fiction and reality. The print’s title, which evokes the idea that this work stems from a broader film or series, may be viewed as an exaggerated and comic version of the attention-grabbing techniques used to promote science fiction. In these respects, Dinomouse Sequel Mutant X seems to support the argument made in 1998 by the curator Staci Boris that in Lane’s work, a ‘Surrealist fascination with elements oddly juxtaposed is combined with the more contemporary strategy of implying reality by presenting clear-cut artifice’. (Staci Boris, ‘Looking into Abigail Lane’, in Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 1998, p.3.)
Born in Cornwall in 1967, Lane studied at Bristol Polytechnic (1985–6) and Goldsmiths College in London (1986–9). She was closely involved in the staging of the exhibition Freeze in south London in 1988, a show curated by the artist Damien Hirst that is widely seen as having initiated the Young British Artist phenomenon. Lane’s Blueprint 1992, which consists of a chair with an ink-pad seat facing a framed ink reproduction of a pair of buttocks, and Misfit 1994, a highly realistic life-size sculpture of a reclining man wearing only a jacket, were both included in the seminal group show Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1997. Her interest in forensic technologies and police procedures can be seen in the installation Bloody Wallpaper 1995, in which the eponymous material features smears and handprints reproduced from a photograph of a 1950s crime scene. In 1997–8 Lane made Still Lives, a series of ten digitally manipulated photographs in which animals such as tigers and bears appear in domestic scenarios (reproduced in Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 1998, pp.10–13), while in the ongoing series of photographs and prints Animal Magic, begun in 2010, animal heads are combined with human bodies.
Dinomouse Sequel Mutant X is part of Screen, a portfolio of eleven prints by London-based artists that was published in 1997 by Charles Booth-Clibborn under his imprint The Paragon Press. The works were all made between February and July 1997, and are presented together with a title page and colophon by the graphic designer Phil Baines in a black buckram-covered wooden case. The title of the portfolio refers to the technique of screenprinting and also alludes to the fact that many of the featured artists work with screen-based media. Each print exists in an edition of seventy-five, with the first forty-five produced in portfolio sets, of which the portfolio owned by Tate is number thirty-three.
Abigail Lane, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1995.
Abigail Lane: Whether the Roast Burns, the Train Leaves, or the Heavens Fall, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago 1998.
In Print: Contemporary British Art from the Paragon Press, exhibition catalogue, Cvijeta Zuzoric Art Pavilion, Belgrade, London 2001, p.22.
Supported by Christie’s.