Born in Epsom in 1967, the English artist started to exhibit his work in 1991, even before concluding his art studies, with group and solo exhibitions in museums and art galleries around the world. Throughout his career he has been awarded many prizes, including the prestigious Leipzig Blinky Palermo Prize in 1999 and Turner Prize in 2005.
Starling’s exhibitions are specifically constructed around the places where he is invited to, and with which he creates a synergetic exchange, grasping the unique nuances of a setting, of a city or of its historical memories. He finds a starting point within any of these elements, and creating solid connections, he develops his research in different directions ultimately creating what he calls “associative collages.”
His analytical skills and the underlying idea that connects his entire oeuvre, supported by his investigations to get to the source, result into unique exhibition projects with site-specific installations.
He is an artist of our times; his poetic—and at the same time ironic—soul tells us of the history of things while allowing them to regenerate and create new narratives, hence setting new cultural boundaries. As he did for instance with Le Jardin Suspendu, which was presented in 1998 at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. He created a scale model of a French airplane ‘Farman Mosquito’, built using the light wood of an Ecuadorian balsa tree, to fly in the grounds of the Heide II: a building designed in 1965 by two International Style architects and in whose garden he had found a big gum tree that had been used to build a canoe. It was a work made of associations of thoughts and meanings: the tree-canoe, Modernist architecture, a journey connecting idea to form.
His creations consist of one connection after the other, with increasingly convoluted variations along a thought that is constantly searching for the essence, the origin of things, the prototype. The process of transfiguration of an object, or of a substance into another, as well as the alteration of natural elements, are, as the artist described his work, “the physical manifestation of a thought process”.
As in Blue Boat Black (1997), where the artist used a showcase of the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and took it to Marseilles, where he transformed it into a boat. A second transformation converted the boat into a coal stove where he cooked the fish caught near the southern French city. The charred relics were then returned to the museum as testimony of the cycle of construction, deconstruction, transformation, and re-use.
Such is the spirit that has accompanied every exhibition of Starling’s work, from the very beginning at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1998) to the Kunstmuseum in Basel (2005), from the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Malaga, the Macro in Rome (2003) and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (2010), among others. He has also participated in most of the major international art exhibits, such as Fare Mondi/Making worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), 26th Bienal de São Paulo (2004), 9th Lyon Biennale and the 8th Sharjah Biennialj (2007), Individual Systems, 50th Venice Biennale (2003).
His artistic production, ranging from video to photography and from performance to sculpture, addresses issues that relate to the pressure of modernity, of mass production and global capitalism, with particular attention to the enormous quantity of Energy consumed by Eastern civilization. His works are permeated by a lightness of irony that demonstrates effectively the balance and strong impact of his artistic expressions.
Starling uses science and technology to promote greater respect for nature and its rules, with the restlessness and humor that characterize his creations; reality is not represented as it appears, but rather as a combination of images and objects that suggests a different and subverted vision that is always vital. Perhaps, as he explained, the artist should never settle with his own vocabulary, because if he did, his work would no longer be alive.