Love, sex and reproduction create a triple no-no when it comes to 'polite' society but then most social constructs are there to be demolished. And when society disintegrates, there's room for demons to run around biting bums. Well we have it all here, and it's a fascinating challenge that will invite, repel and evoke a laugh depending which gallery you're in.
Barker presents nine potent works in the hall gallery. She has resurrected ancient deities, stripped them of their old magic and endowed them with new power to create modern icons for medically enhanced fertility and science assisted reproduction. As the Science vs Nature debate about procreation rages, Baker enters the realms of past idols, icons and totems to bring their mysteries into the present. For all its clinical approach and the wealth of information available on IVF, there's still something magical about procreation. Barker has tapped this sense of awe.
Her large oil on canvas images of fertility deities are strong in colour, balanced in pattern, mysterious in imagery and supporting sufficient symbolic content as to invite the lighting of candles or bringing of offerings. Barker's attention to the surface treatment of her work is highly rewarding, one feels she understands the properties of her medium and that the act of painting should be accompanied by rhythmic chanting at the very least. The standing figures with large stylized heads, depict body parts, both inside and out, as abstract motifs. The x-ray design and huge eyes evoke ideas of Aboriginal totems and Wandjina figures. Two exceptions are The Incubator and Pregnancy were the figures have smaller, more human faces. I particularly like the latter as thin arms rest on a circular womb containing a foetus, the typical posture of a woman in her 9th month. Then we notice the 'woman' has male genitals suggesting either this is a pregnant man, or the conception took place in the traditional manner with masculine assistance. Science or Nature?
Conception and procreation are not the subjects of Schuttler's installation in the main gallery. Images of sexual foreplay, copulation and genitals are scratched into perspex then illuminated by UV lights. I've no problem with the subject matter or the medium employed, in fact one has to appreciate the 'glare as we stare' effect, it's just that the work is so poorly produced it looks like adolescent graffiti that attempts to shock but fails. Engraving perspex produces a scratchy rather then sketchy line, one that could have been exploited to create an agitated, edgy mood if the artist owned better drawing skills. Meanwhile the only 'shocking' element is wondering if the little blue tubs supporting wee white penises in the series He is Risen are empty Vicks Vaporub jars. The thought brought tears to my partner's eyes!
In the back gallery Lorne presents us with figurative sculptures composed of wood, ceramic, plaster, natural fibres, acrylic paint, resin, wire, glue, found objects, a creative mind, strong skills and natural talent. This artist is known for her excellent presentation of well made sculptures, these works are no exception. Her use of colour, attention to finished surfaces, clever construction and imagery, and her ability to capture the imagination of the viewer makes her work accessible and appreciated.
In this exhibition the artist references African culture, its tribal rituals and rites of passage for women, to inform the viewer of a frightening custom in a non confrontational manner. In some tribes female genital mutilation is common practice and the artist approaches the subject with dignity. Lorne's mix of imagery, colour and symbolism allows us to come gently to the truth, discover the horror, find sympathy for the women, and respect for the artist's handling of the theme.
Most of the exhibits appear as powerful totems, with the lozenge shape seen as a repeated motif. But when you find the key, you'll recognize the motif as indicative of female genitalia, then you have to re-translate each image. I found the 'key' in Stolen, a poignant exhibit that involves two compartments; one side offers an intricately carved pointed lozenge clearly identifiable as female genitalia while the other side contains the bust of old woman, her neck extended by coloured rings, her breasts flaccid and her hands aged. The look of sadness in the brightly coloured carved icon tells of how, as a young woman, she was robbed of the pleasure of participating in the sex act. The whole exhibition was revisited with new insight to the artist's work.
There is no judgement metered out here, just recognition of a fact. Even in Elder, where we see the 'surgeon' and his blood stained pointed stick, there is a sense of dignity. After all he is performing a sacred ritual and is deserved of honour. This is a splendid exhibition, for its statement and its fine art objects.
For some light relief prior to leaving, head up stairs and meet Barrett's
delightful, dreadful creatures. Colourful, crazy and chock full of personality
these fantasy critters with funky philosophies are a rare find and the
product of a fascinating mind. Good stuff. Don't let the fun and silliness
of the exhibits detract from the skills evident in these well sculpted
brightly finished works of clay.
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