​is the grass really green and are the girls really pretty down in paradise city?

There’s trouble in paradise as artists Varia Mhitarian and Imogen Parry curate an exhibition titled Exotica, that explores the effect of human excess on tropical beauty and the urban longing for palm trees and pineapple pie…

by Lily Bonesso
07 December 2015, 1:52am

mayan view by Isabella Eickenhorst

Right this minute a railway arch in east London is being transformed into a hedonistic dreamland for one night only. Welcome to Varia Mhitarian and Imogen Parry's exhibition Exotica. Cue palm-trees, DJs and cocktails; cue deep dark desires and irresponsible playtime.

The co-curators plan to create a totally immersive art experience, where the selection of music is the key to feeling the dark undercurrents that lurk with the work of nine artists' re-imaginings of paradise. With all the lustful scenery of supermodels holidaying on Instagram, beautiful nature is greedily taken and synthesised past perfection. The work is a seductive reminder of the empty ambition of having too much.

Specter by Roger Spy

Things are certainly not what they seem. Constructed out of nothing but flour, Simon Woolf's photographs lead us over the surface of the moon. Sophie Rogers' animated world of high-intensity colour and Nintendo aesthetics takes us to the re-invented site of Brainchild Festival. Roger Spy's over-synthesized films include holographic hair by Johanna Cree Brown, and a re-worked version of Danny Boyle's The Beach - a fantasy of a fantasy. i-D caught up with the girls for a slice of that pineapple pie…

Nova by Imogen Parry

What is paradise to you?
Varia: For me, it would be somewhere tropical, but I don't think a beach alone would cut it. I think what's exciting about the idea of paradise is that it is hidden and slightly secret so you can share it with a select group of people.
Imogen: I think ultimately paradise isn't a real place, it's an amalgamation of loads of different ideals.

Is seeking the perfect "paradise-on-earth" unhealthy?
Varia: In a way it is, because you're always aspiring to something that isn't real. When I was travelling I saw that a lot of people hadn't found happiness even though they were in really idyllic places. But I also think people can be afraid to dream of a perfect paradise, and can be quick to deny that it exists. I don't think you have to stick to a routine existence, if that makes you unhappy you have the power to go and change it.
Imogen: That question really reminded me of my piece which is getting framed at the framers tonight. It's called Nova, a nova is a star that temporarily gets increasingly brighter and then returns to its original state. The artwork is a screen print of palm trees that have been treated with black diamond dust on black paper. With my artwork I like to play with ideas of "gilding the lily"- taking something that is already naturally beautiful and tipping it into becoming slightly kitsch. I think with ideas of paradise we take natural beauty and dress it up with neon lights, turning it into something artificial and synthetic. I find this really interesting because even though the synthetic is alluring, there's also something kind of toxic and bad about it.

Paris Ackrill, Celestial Party

Which work would you want in your beach hut?
Varia: I actually think Imogen's Nova! I've grown to love the whole sparkly, kind of trashy, feel to it.
Imogen: Yeah, that piece brings back good memories. We were in a car ride across India at night, looking out the windows at this amazing, amazing place called Hampi, which is all rice paddies and palm trees. In the dead of night, the palm trees really stood out against the black sky, because the moonlight was so intense. I became obsessed with trying to make an image which could convey this…

Are people more escapist now than before?
Imogen: I think in the past 5-8 years, everyone has become more escapist, with the rise of smartphones and technology. There are so many ways to lose yourself in some kind of alternate reality and I'm sure it's affecting the chemistry of our brains!

Imogen Parry, Bikini

So… is the grass always greener?
Varia: I actually don't completely agree with that statement. I think the idea of taking a leap of faith and going and trying something new has a lot to be said for it. I think the concept of "exotic" can also mean freeing yourself from the constraints which make you unhappy.

Exotica will be at Arch 402 Gallery, Cremer Street, E2 8HD, Thursday 3rd December, 6-12 pm.


Text Lily Bonesso
Main Image Isabella Einckenhorst, Mayan View

imogen parry
varia mhitarian