Isabelle Cornaro, Paysage avec poussin, South London Gallery, London

In a major two-part solo exhibition at South London Gallery and Spike Island, French artist Isabelle Cornaro presents a series of installations which explore themes of cultural heritage and the value attached to objects when placed in a gallery or museum context. Paysage avec poussin at South London Gallery and Témoins oculaires at Spike Island is the first collaboration of its kind between two leading public British galleries.

At the South London Gallery, viewers are invited to explore the sixth in a series of installations entitled Paysage avec poussin et témoins oculaires. Started in 2008, each installation in the series is loosely based on Nicolas Poussin’s 17th century landscape painting Landscape with Hercule and Cacus (c.1656). A trained art historian, Cornaro’s visual language often draws on a wide array of references from the Baroque to modernist abstraction. In this installation series, the artist is seen extracting the choreographed and composed elements of a classical painting, translating its two-dimensional language into a sculptural interpretation.

Through the use of pedestals and standing walls, Cornaro meticulously arranges a selection of objects including urns, stone flower pots, and marble obelisks, into a physical and tangible tableaux. Sourced from different locations and chosen for their specific form or decoration, Cornaro groups her objects by size, lines of perspective and for their light and shadow effects. The artist’s creative selection and controlled orchestration of artefacts, often borrowed from domestic, decorative or functional contexts, puts into question their aesthetic and cultural value. The work’s clearly structured composition allows visitors to explore the tableaux from different viewpoints whilst also inviting them to walk between the pedestals, encountering fragments of Cornaro’s constructed ‘landscape’.

Living and working in Paris and Zurich, Cornaro has exhibited extensively across France as well as internationally. Known for her work in painting, sculpture, film and installation, the artist uses a diverse combination of mediums and display methods to explore the influence of history and culture on our perception of reality. Her exploratory practice queries the relationships between systems of representation and our understanding of the world, whilst revealing the subtle shifts of meaning provoked by processes of reproduction and translation.

To accompany this work, two of Cornaro’s silent films on 16mm, Figures (2011) and Premier rêve d’Oskar Fischinger (2008), will be shown in the first floor galleries.

Isabelle Cornaro, Paysage avec poussin, until 5 April, South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH. To find out more, visit

Isabelle Cornaro, Témoins oculaires, until 29 March, Spike Island, 133 Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6UX. Additional details can be found at

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1. Film still from Figures, 2011, 16mm film. Courtesy of the artist, and galleries Balice Hertling, Francesca Pia and Hannah Hoffman.