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I think horses must be magic. Either that or spiritually jacked. Half beast half machine, all muscle and power. I think horses are a metaphor for animal freedom. I think horses are a metaphor for the capitalist machine, the march of civilisation, work and war and labour and —- Men! Horses are man extenders, horse as phallus. I think horses are so big and strange, with their weird long alien heads. What do they think about? Do they understand music and sarcasm, do they have dreams, do they experience a feeling of pride or satisfaction when they cross that finish line first?

Lucky horse, trotting happy through the forest on the way to pasture. Sad horse, towing a cart behind it, a beast of burden. Fast horse, galloping along the dirt track. Wild horse, swivel-eyed and frantic in the scramble across the lightning struck expanse of the Great Plains. Rocky Mountains, blue sky and horse hooves on stone. Iron on iron, blacksmith’s arms flexing and slick with sweat. You can take a horse to water, on your high horse, gift-horse, dark horse, straight from the horse’s mouth, flogging a dead horse, pissing like a carthorse, hold your horses!

Yes, I love horses. Not in a home counties pony show horse-girl way. I love horses in an Ada Limon way, Clarice Lispector The Beseiged City way, Lloyds TSB advert with the big horses running in the mist, steam coming out of their noses and rolling off their backs from the heat of all their exertion way. I want to be a horse, in a sense. I want to stomp and gallop over the hills, stand in a field in a little quilted jacket, chew on grass, flex the muscles on my back as I belt it on the final furlong. I don’t even know what a furlong is. I want to be so tall and so wide that it’s actually frightening, so big and beastly that if I change my mind, I could kick my hindlegs and kill you. Unknowable mysteries in my big horse-mind. I am jealous of horses, their physical symbolic metaphorical and mystical power.

I have an instagram account dedicated to spotting horses in art, mostly in paintings. I look for the image of a horse everywhere I go. On jumpers, tshirts, sides of vans and buses, on posters and album covers. I think of it as a sign that I’m feeling alienated, yardstick of a wilting inner life. I think of it as a sign that I am not really a human, just a horse stuffed into human skin. I think of it as a sign that I yearn to be free as the wind, unconfined by the burden of phone bills and topping up my oyster card. I yearn for a form that is more arresting, more animal. I look for the image of a horse, like it is a totem, like it is a good omen.

I slipped a left off the Holloway Road, down a street with bus stands and blossom, back on myself at a fork in the road to Islington Arts Factory. The building used to be a church, now it is a community arts centre, the gallery is in the old nave. It still has the arches, all the art is nestled under them, like the paintings are taking shelter. Show Pony is an exhibition curated by Kelly Wu, 14 emerging artists who have made some art about the beauty of horses.

Roisin McAuliffe has a steel etching right by the door. Two near identical horse silhouettes frosted into the metal. They are ghost-silent, frozen still in a position where their necks are tensed round, their legs mid-gallop with one hoof raised. They parade over each other, in sync or double vision. I have to move my head over to the side to catch them both at the same time because the frosted shading is like a hologram. It’s work that’s slight, about outline and shape. Like an imprint or stain, fingerprint kiss on the glass of a windowpane. Something you only see in full when the light catches it just right.

Over the other side of the gallery, Joe Ackerley’s Half of the Sun is a painting that speaks in a similar whisper soft voice. The figure of a smudged out pale orange horse wanders listlessly through a watery brown fog. The fog is oil paint, thinned and stretched out so far it has become a stain. It’s painted onto a kind of wood that looks porous and absorbant, like it’s sucked the pigment into itself to make the brushstrokes part of its flat wooden body. The horse is on a wonk, legs all spindly and tilted to make it look even more mysterious or aimless. The painting is cupped tight in a wooden frame so thick, it’s like a buffer zone that becomes part of the painting. The horse looks even more lonely in the fog and the wooden expanse, I want to cup it in my hands and give it a kiss.

Lâl Yilmaz’s drawing, tale of the fallen horse is on wood so pale it almost shimmers iridescent. The artist has drawn an unreal nightmare scene in red and brown pencil, scratchy and stark over the fine grain of the pearly wood. A horse lies fallen in a ditch, two horses upright and boxing in a cellular circle vignette, two squatting figures hold hands and raise an egg to an eagle, the eagle is watched over by a figure with two horses’ heads. Beyond: the hills, a disembodied oversized ear, smoke stacks rise like a sigh. It’s not Hieronymous Bosch, it’s not Dali, it’s like a fantasy mix of something being expunged. I get the feeling I shouldn’t be looking at it, even as I check if it’s for sale (it’s not).

Love and Marriage is a work that feels lucky, serendipitous. Nicole Clif has found or sourced a packet of hook and eyes — the kind of tiny little clasps I only ever find at the top of skirts and dresses, to hold invisible zippers together. The cardboard is blue and red, the logo is two horses on their hind legs, rearing up to put their hooves on an enormous globe. All the hooks are fastened into eyes. They hold hands in a neat line, each with their own specific special pair apart from two rogue hooks. The whole thing is framed by a periwinkle blue backing and a delicate white lace trim. It looks like a fancy and delightful cake, hand embroidered, to be marvelled at. The spectacle of marriage feels a bit like this to me. It is lucky, neat. I close my eyes and think about how we ask horses to clop down the road with feathers on their head, ferrying a groom to the wedding or ferrying a coffin to the grave. Pink feathers white feathers and black feathers — morbid.

Jack Oulton’s False replica Plastic hug is also very neat, clean, sparse. Two square ceramic tiles, all glossy smooth and sandwiched next to each other on the floor. On the right hand tile, a small metal horse figurine, painted white in chipping enamel. It’s trapped under a thin plastic bag that’s been tucked under the tile, so the horse exists in this baggy pocket. It looks like it could be old, maybe a knight’s horse. Maybe it is an artefact, dug up out the ground from olden times. On the corner of a column, not far away, another baggy plastic pocket. There’s a shard of glass and the whole thing is hanging like a pouch, weighed up by some thick metal hooks. I don’t understand the physics of it. I prefer the mysterious ye olde horse. It looks like it’s in some provisional packaging, it looks like it’s suffocating, it looks like a he because as I peer down past my toes, I realise I am looking at him with tenderness and affection. He is object and the plastic is fabric, it is sheer rather than transparent, and —- actually there’s a sensuousness to this sculptural arrangement that makes the hug feel more hug-like than suffocating or clingfilm. He (the horse) is contained within the delicate skin of the sheer fabric (see through plastic) and it is a gentle limit through which we and he cannot pass. The way the plastic rustles as I shift around it is very pleasing. I spend so much time peering down at him, my knees click when I get back up.

I walk back the other way, down to Caledonian Road and the part of Islington that looks like the suburbs. It’s funny, I think horses are having A Moment and I’m enjoying it while it lasts. A horse is a symbol, a window into a room full of bigger, more abstract and unweildy things. But we can signal those unweildy things in a more weildy way, by saying HORSE. HORSE is shorthand, abbreviation, cryptolex, iykyk. I am thrilled by the horse boom, I dread the horse bust — for now: HORSE HORSE HORSE HORSE HORSE.