I asked Julie Béna what a purple unicorn was. It is said that even if a unicorn is captured, it can never be tamed. I understand this as meaning unicorns retain their mystery even when found out, which is probably why they could never exist.
For the exhibition Purple Unicorn, Béna has created a scene that presents us with familiar qualities one may register from reality, but when grasped, dissipate or collapse into fiction. Upon first glance, it may evoke the feeling of being in a nightclub when the lights suddenly turn on. The tableau exists somewhere in between a clothing shop window and the area behind the red curtain at a peep show. Stretchy fabrics and loosely hanging jewelry mirror the tension between concealment and exposure, and play with our notions of lust, vanity, deception and disappointment once the veil is lifted. The hide and seek elements of women’s clothing serve to hint, to intimate, but once flattened and taut, are forcibly and methodically exposed, amplified.
Green sea foamed fragments of mermaid tails and crab claws slowly come into focus, washing up ashore and adorning the walls of your grandmother’s beach house. Like naturalistic props, animals, plants and shells appear and disappear into the landscape, suggesting the unceasing possibilities of the imagination and the way in which Béna tells the story, slithering between truth and illusion.