IN THE GALLERY: The Beast and the Bestiary

Juan Ford

23 Sep - 24 Oct 2020

This major new exhibition by acclaimed Melbourne painter Juan Ford, includes over 60 new works making up a compendium of beasts from Jorge Luis Borges’ bestiary; ‘The Book of Imaginary Beings’.

We live in saturation, in a roaring river of ideas, currents, realities, babble and untamable forces. With science we might understand slivers, in a manner that is measurable, testable, and replicable.

Yet the more complex the technology and control, the faster, deeper and wilder the river rages in response; the more incongruous possibilities bloom.

When our Melbourne lockdown began in March 2020, I set about trying something different. In this situation where rationality implores us to isolate, to contain and to limit, I noticed my imagination firing with intensity.

Was there perhaps a dynamic between control of the physical world, and our imaginative, inner lives? Where the constriction of one leads to the expansion of the other… No, that’s too simplistic. These are mere momentary eddies in a side stream. Nature is unstoppable, immeasurable.

Jorge Luis Borges knew this. His Manual de Zoologica Fantástica from 1957 is more than ethnography. It is a scholarly dip into the turbulent waters of the infinite, and the key source for this painted bestiary.

This exhibition is a tribute to the forces that have shaped me, and to Borges’ lifetime of service to the imagination. For all the various forms presented here are but mere peeks into the void. It’s a small response to living through a pandemic, and a reminder that nature is us, and we are a momentary expression of it.