We are delighted to present The Snake, by Delaine Le Bas, opening at the worm on 15 December 2022 at 6 pm. The third chapter in the evolving New Aberdeen Bestiary project, The Snake interrogates dominant narratives of history to speculate and imagine what may be the truths beneath, the mass of individual stories and memories that make up lived experiences. In the spires of fabric and paper, words shed their skin, permutating across time and cultures, weaving silenced stories of prejudice, racism and violence, meshing into new mythologies, new wondrous monsters that manifest hidden truths.

At once the centre of the exhibition and every one of its radiating nerve endings, the snake rapidly dissolves in different directions, rippling through the works under changing guises. More often than not, the reptile meets the human, in chimeric half-snake half-woman forms, a creature halfway between this world and an otherworldly, subterrain dimension. In this hybrid form, challenging and subverting its canonical representation in Christian iconography, the snake appears coiled around the tree of wisdom, its guardian and protector. This is echoed in the Greek myth of Python, a giant snake—which some sources describe as half-woman half-snake—that used to guard the Delphi oracle, one of the most important oracles and sacred places in the ancient world.

As a guardian and a protector, the snake moves into the story of Medusa. Once a beautiful woman, Medusa was violated by Poseidon in one of Athena’s temples. In retaliation, the goddess turned Medusa’s hair into a nest of snakes and cursed her gaze to turn into stone whoever it rested upon. Medusa was then killed by Perseus, who gifted her head, with her petrifying eyes still open, to Athena. The goddess wore it on her aegis, an armour cloak that became her symbol and a metaphor for protection. Medusa’s head then becomes an apotropaic talisman, much like the evil eye, warding off evil as it itself hosts evil, with its deathly stare. In The Snake, Medusa appears screenprinted onto paper and, importantly, fabric. By writing Medusa’s story on the large sheets of rigid, thin see-through fabric, Le Bas casts clothing as a form of protection as well as knowledge and recognition. In the space of The Snake, however, reminiscent of a snake’s moulting and shedding of skin, clothing becomes also a transformative element, a moment of rebeginning and reinventing.

The story of Medusa, particularly her immobile head, her scream frozen by her own stare, ripples throughout art history. Le Bas’ Medusa nods to Caravaggio’s reincarnation, in his sixteenth-century painting on a convex wooden shield. Caravaggio’s Medusa is actually the artist’s self-portrait; similarly, Le Bas finds in Medusa a double and a host for her own scream. Medusa’s agony is a cry of terror and bewilderment, of facing death in yourself. There is something, however, in the depiction of a scream, that makes its silence suddenly and undeniably manifest. A muted scream is a cry that can’t be heard—an abyss of loneliness in the muted throat. Le Bas incarnates Medusa, fixing their twined screams on the surface of an etching plate, which brings the technique close to its origins in armoury decoration. In approaching the myth, Le Bas is interested in Medusa’s loneliness, cursed for a wrong in which she was the victim and not the perpetrator. That scream is the outcry of a wronged woman, all her rage.

In the same way that myths and images shift and change every time a different person holds them in their hands, so do words. Gypsy, gypcian, Egyptian. Unravelling the origins of the word ‘Gypsy’ through its sequence of changes and variations, Le Bas is interested both in the word’s roots in misappropriation and prejudice, and in the stylings of a word as is so unfixed, as it moves from one speaker’s mouth to the next. And it how it is not a word of self-determination, but one of imposition, a word used by settled populations not only to indicate Gypsy people and communities, but to set them apart as others. Le Bas playfully reappropriates the fluidity of the word in its many appearances as a defiant act of resistance to the violence of categorisation.

The effort to excavate inner resonances, return words to their origins and tease out connections and relations between them, manifests itself in Le Bas’ work in a sustained practice of cataloguing, numbering, archiving. Working from a reserve of knowledge related to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history that is often housed in archives within large institutions, but that is not always catalogued with the same rigour as material belonging to settled European peoples, or is mislabelled or boxed in the wrong category, Le Bas is concerned with weaving an alternative narrative of history that pays attention to all the ways that any historical narrative is biased and incomplete. Her highly personal system of naming and dating works functions as a sort of index sheet, except the label is incorporated in the work, inextricable from it—to indicate that we can never, really, stretch too far from the systems we are part of.

About Delaine Le Bas

Delaine Le Bas (Worthing, 1965) is a cross disciplinary artist creating installations, performance, photography and film. She studied at St Martins School of Art in London, and has exhibited work and performed across the UK and Europe. She was one of the sixteen artists who were part of Paradise Lost: The First Roma Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. She worked with her late husband, artist Damian Le Bas (1963-2017) on their installations Safe European Home? and projects Gypsy Revolution, Gypsy DaDa, and in 2017 producing the stage artworks and costumes together for Roma Armee. Delaine created Romani Embassy in 2015. Delaine has created performance text works with her son, writer Damian James Le Bas. Delaine’s most recent commission was for Radical Landscapes at Tate Liverpool 2022 and she will be presenting The House Of Le Bas: Established 1984 at Whitechapel Gallery Archive, Whitechapel Gallery London in 2023 and has a solo exhibition at Secession Vienna Summer 2023.

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Effective date: April 24, 2018

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Last updated: April 24, 2018

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Delivery & Returns

Delivery
At Peacock Visual Arts we have been dealing with delicate artworks on a daily basis, for over 40 years. Our staff are trained in securely and professionally packaging a print, ready for shipment all over the world. Firstly, the print is protected by specialist tissue paper. Depending on the size of the print, it will then either be carefully rolled up in a tube or packaged flat using tough cardboard and bubble wrap. Your print will be delivered fully insured. We aim to deliver within 3-5 working days for UK orders, within 7-14 days for European destinations and within 12-24 days for the rest of the world.

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If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, please call us first on +44 1224 639539 to return the item within 14 days for an exchange or refund in the form of original payment. The item returned must be packaged in its original way and in saleable condition. Shipping and handling charges are not refundable, unless the print has been lost or damaged in transit (see ‘Damages’ for more info). Return the package insured to: Peacock Visual Arts Ltd 21 Castle Street Aberdeen AB11 5BQ United Kingdom We will credit your original payment method within 3 days of confirmation of receiving your returned print. If you have requested an alternative, we will ship this as soon as we have confirmed receipt of the original print. Transit times will be the same as detailed in your original order. For more information, please call our Customer Service representative on +44 (0)1224-639539 or email info@peacockvisualarts.co.uk.

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At Peacock Visual Arts we do our utmost to ensure that every print is sent to you in perfect condition, but we know that occasionally things can get lost or damaged in transit. Please inspect your print upon delivery. In the unlikely event that it has arrived damaged, please contact us immediately on +44 1224 639539 or email info@peacockvisualarts.co.uk. Keep all of the original packaging and we will arrange a courier to pick up your re-packaged print and issue you with a replacement print or full refund in the form of original payment. If you have requested a refund, we will credit your original payment method within 3 days of confirmation of receiving your returned print. Alternatively, if you have requested a replacement, we will ship this as soon as we have confirmed receipt of the original print. Transit times will be the same as detailed in your original order. The majority of our prints are limited editions so their stock is restricted in number. Whilst we do everything we can to issue you with a replacement, occasionally the print edition will have run out. In this situation, we can offer you a full refund or store credit note so that you can choose an alternative. We cannot accept prints back unless they are in their original packaging.