- Tamara Henderson born 1982
- Wood, canvas, copper, paint, synthetic textile and other materials
- Overall display dimensions variable
- Purchased with funds provided by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of North American Acquisitions Committee 2019
This is one of nine works that collectively form the installation Of Seasons End 2016–18. They are part of a larger group of works that Henderson has shown in a linked series of installations collectively titled Seasons End, created since 2016. Of Seasons End comprises six sculptures, each of which is a double-sided cape-like form; two large curtains; and a painting; all are individually titled. When shown together, the sculptures occupy the centre of a room and the curtains and painting are displayed around the walls. Also in Tate’s collection is a related film, titled Season’s End: Out of Body 2018 (Tate T15550), that can be shown within the installation or separately.
Seasons End was first exhibited at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow in 2016 as part of the Glasgow International. In the original installation, a group of twenty-four anthropomorphic sculptures surrounded a standing totemic figure. When next installed at Redcat, Los Angeles, the figure was prone; it was later cremated by the artist on a Californian beach. In the subsequent installation at the Rodeo Gallery in London, eighteen of the original twenty-four sculptures took centre stage, surrounded by paintings and curtains. Around the time of this exhibition, Henderson created a new set of similar cape-like sculptures for a performance organised by the Serpentine Gallery, London titled Seasons End: Out of Body. Many of these were exhibited in Oakville Galleries near Toronto in late 2017. A further exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin brought together elements from the Glasgow, Los Angeles, Rodeo, Serpentine and Oakville projects.
The nine parts of Of Seasons End are listed below. Each of the six sculptures is a double-sided, broadly rectangular form which resembles a broad-shouldered figure wearing a cape-like costume, standing on two feet-like boxes and with a neck or head-like shape atop it. The main ‘body’ of the work is a wooden support which is covered by the fabric cape.
Newsagents Garbage Whispers 2016 (sculpture): On one side of the cape, a series of eight eye-like shapes are stitched on the main body; on the other side, the body is painted with a maze-like design. The flanks on both sides resemble the sprocket holes in a piece of celluloid film. Strands of raffia extend from the bottom of the costume on both sides, out into the space beyond. Henderson has described the figure as a kind of alien or visitor (conversation with Tate curator Mark Godfrey, February 2018). This work forms a group with the following two.
The Other Alien 2016 (sculpture): This work is similar in composition and form to Newsagents Garbage Whispers. Here the eight eyes have black rather than red radial lines. Henderson has described these lines as like cracks in glaciers, and has said that the sculpture is a witness to environmental catastrophes and that its eyes are cracking because of what it sees (ibid.).
Road to Recovery 2016 (sculpture): In composition, this work is very close to Newsagents Garbage Whispers and The Other Alien, featuring a set of eyes on one side and a maze painting on the other. The artist sees these three sculptures as a group (ibid.).
Postcards from the Deep 2016 (sculpture): This costume features paintings derived from the two sides of a postcard; one side is blank, the other shows a collection of insects. Henderson found the postcard in Dover during her travels, and was struck by its depiction of insects discovered at customs that have entered Britain despite being prohibited. The flanks of the costume resemble sprocket holes. The costume stands on two feet, with a ‘head’ made of two sparkly copper-coloured discs and an arched metallic form like a tusk.
X-Rayed Path 2016 (sculpture): This sculpture features a repeated world map on one side, with a line sewn into the maps recording the routes Henderson took while working on Seasons End. Two eye-shapes dominate the other side of the sculpture, from which tassels dangle. The flanks of the costume resemble sprocket holes and, on the side with the eyes, dark orange silk is sewn into each rectangular hole.
When the Wind Blows 2016: This sculpture has a series of pockets on each of its sides – four on one side, two on the other. Henderson has placed maps and newspapers into these pockets, including an issue of The Scotswoman. The sculpture itself appears as a nomadic creature and as a collector. A large seashell is attached to the ‘neck’ and both flanks resemble sprocket holes.
Waves, Sleep 2016 (curtain): This is a curtain that can be shown around the walls as part of the larger installation or on its own in the centre of a space. It is composed from several different materials, mostly blue in hue, with one reflective silver strip along one bottom side. Leather patches are incorporated into the curtain.
Translator’s Leak 2016 (curtain): The composition of this curtain connects it to the group of three sculptures Newsagents Garbage Whispers, The Other Alien and Road to Recovery, since it features a set of cracked eyes.
Tidal Bore 2016 (painting): This is an abstract painting made from various materials including pulped paper formed from the backdrops against which the sculptures were photographed when Henderson showed them in the Glasgow International exhibition. It is framed on the left and top by a dark blue band, and on the bottom and right by an even darker band. The composition in the centre is a series of curved and wave-like shapes. Henderson has described her paintings as ‘like meditations’ (ibid.); they are composed intuitively and automatically, without planning or drawing. The title refers to Henderson’s experience of tidal bores in her hometown in New Brunswick, Canada: the tidal bore occurs when the spring tide enters a small inlet, causing a massive wave.
Of Seasons End brings together all aspects of Henderson’s practice and outlook. She is interested in dreams and hypnotic states, in pagan traditions connected to seasonal changes and the passage of time, and in free and poetic juxtapositions of images, materials and objects. However her practice is also rooted in a reflection on her contemporary experience of migration, nomadism, travel, environmental crisis and technology. The visually rich sculptures, with their exquisite materials and their sewn-in found objects, call to mind costumes worn during rituals, mythical beings (for instance, many-eyed creatures) and superstitions. At the same time, the inclusion of elements such as the Dover postcard, the copy of the Scotswoman and the footage of melting glaciers point to the artist’s experience of particular locations and moments of time. Although the titles of her works suggest some narrative content, the artist has chosen not to explain these (with the exception of Tidal Bore).
Henderson is also interested in connections between media. Rather than seeing film-making and sewing as separate practices, she understands them as linked. Just as a garment is moved along by the machinery of a sewing machine, so the film strip is moved through the projector by means of the sprocket holes. Henderson’s sculptures are recorded in her films, as is the case with the film Season’s End: Out of Body, but the montage of diverse images in the films also recalls the sometimes surprising differences between the fronts and backs of the sculptures. All of Henderson’s media are resolutely analogue and, in this way, relate to the physical body that makes and performs with the works. Her choice of analogue media and materials speaks further to her considered rejection of a world controlled by digital communication.
Writing on the Seasons End project, the British critic Tom Morton has outlined the elusiveness of Henderson’s practice while also emphasising its affect:
While Seasons End: Panting Healer is, on one level, a feverish reverie, it also casts visitors in the role of anthropologists, conducting fieldwork among a previously unknown people. Studying the garment sculptures, we recognize that they are preoccupied, like all human-shaped beings, with the circle of night and day, of death and (re)birth, of seeds reaped and sown. Nevertheless, the precise contours of their cosmology remain naggingly unclear. This elusiveness is all to the good. The power of Henderson’s art turns on the combination of its discombobulating surface detail and its ability to tug at something deep within us.
(Morton 2017, accessed 20 March 2018.)
Josefine Wikstrom, ‘Tamara Henderson: In Focus’, Frieze, no.165, September 2014.
Tom Morton, ‘Tamara Henderson’s “Seasons End: Panting Healer”’,
Andrew Berardini, ‘“If I Ventured in the Slipstream”: Tamara Henderson’s Nomadic Encampment at REDCAT’, Momus, December 2016, http://momus.ca/if-i-ventured-in-the-slipstream-tamara-hendersons-nomadic-encampment-at-redcat/, accessed 20 March 2018.
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