The oil paintings by artist Indra Giedans are a collection of events, captured moments of subdued distress. The artist creates a sense of vulnerability as she combines soft fabrics worn over young bodies with the recurring covering of the face. Each girl either has her upper body outside of the canvas, turns her head to the side or covers it completely. They seem to illustrate the girls’ quiet discomfort as she weighs up her options, silently buying her time while she tries to decide what to do next. Does she fall or step back? Face her dilemmas or crawl deeper under the chair?
As I first walked into the exhibition, looking around I initially sensed a contradiction of character between what I felt to be the focal piece and the majority of the others. The room was filled with soft pastel colours, party dresses and barren landscapes of backyards, bedrooms and parks. The artworks had a youthful quality and came across as an unabashed ode to femininity. Generally they seemed rather simple in content. But then you are also confronted by a central painting, Little Red Dress. It is the lower half of a girl, the bottom of her red dress bunched up around her thighs as she lies on the ground. She may be sleeping, she may be dead but the only clue is highlighted in the top left corner, a man’s feet. This makes the painting the only one with any indication toward a cause for anxiousness; it is by far the most ominous of the group. Little Red Dress works as a gateway into the darker side of the show, drawing out the more sinister side of the other paintings.
Geidans’ paintings’ purpose seem to be a demonstration of the manner in which each girl deals with her own personal ailment. One hides under a chair, causing her skirt to ride up, exposing her underwear. There is a spotlight on the girl and a chair, making a great black shadow and circular expanse surrounding them. This shows how, even when she is trying to make herself go unnoticed, she cannot divert attention away. Another image has a girl with only a purple dress looking out, possibly about to fall or jump over a cliff edge. In others the girls are lying down on the floor of a bedroom. Only feet and legs can be seen as they are up on a messed up bed. These moments of escape and resistance function with the grounds to show their own futility.
There is a set of four self-portraits. Within these the artist has made it most clear her intention in the removal of the face from the work. The first portrait, a close up of a stern looking woman with a clear Glad Snap Lock bag over her face, is an image that signifies both submission and defiance. Not only is it the one painting in the whole exhibition that you can make the features of a face, but also the only one that implies direct eye contact with the viewer. The character in the second wears pantihose covering her head, hiding much like a criminal. The third is glad wrap, and the fourth, cloth. Each one acts as a support to the show, cementing both the roles of the girls in the exhibition and their awareness of how little control they actually have.
Grouped together, the artworks have the atmosphere of a small country town. They remind me of the feeling of being idle, of simmering in the morning heat after a party as you wander through the streets trying to get home. The idea of climbing fences, hanging upside down from park play equipment and weighing up your own mortality while balancing precariously on rock faces and tree branches. Geidans has used her own locality of Perth -with its bright and gleaming sun and dry dusty suburbia- to illustrate a certain way of being on your own. It is not through choice, not by being ostracized, it is just a natural occurrence, a means to an end.
A female’s vulnerability in suburban and domestic settings tends to point toward a confinement in the home. Being bound by traditions and chores. Acting as the mother, carer and labourer. While these notions are never visually described –the only kitchenware in the exhibition being the Glad bag, the only mention of laundry an empty hills hoist and the only secondary character appears neither caring or cared for -there seems a strong indication that this is what afflicts the characters.
Geidans’ use of domestic settings and the combination of fabric and the body have been evident in many of her exhibitions. Her feministic sensibilities give her works a calm and reflective feeling. With the colours soft and subjects generally central and lying down, there seems to be so much time to view each piece. With no urgency or rush it is all very easy to take in.
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