Posts Tagged ‘Judith Wright

29
May
09

Review: ‘Desire’ paintings and video by Judith Wright at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 13th June 2009

 

Judith Wright. Installation of 'Desire' exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

Judith Wright. Installation of 'Desire' exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Judith Wright’s exhibition Desire at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

On a beautiful sunny Autumn afternoon in Melbourne I made a visit to Space Furniture on Church Street to ogle at the wondrous designs and then to the galleries of Albert Street in Richmond for three outstanding painting exhibitions: John Beard at John Buckley Gallery, McLean Edwards at Karen Woodbury Gallery and Judith Wright at Sophie Gannon Gallery. First cab off the rank is Judith Wright but reviews of the other two shows will follow…

There is a part in Jim Jarmusch’s film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) where the anti-hero stares into the eyes of a dog and Jarmusch just holds the scene for what seems like an eternity. The camera observes the infinite bond between human and animal, an almost palpable connection across time and space, with an unflinching eye. The same can be said of Judith Wright’s encaustic paintings (also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which coloured pigments are added) but here she pushes the relationship further – into an investigation of the animal in the human and vice versa, and their erotic charge when placed together. Here is the carnivalesque at it most daring, most paired back, revealing in quiet Zen like compositions the dissolution of boundaries between both states of being.

Nominally based on the symbology of characters presented in two videos in the exhibition (masked figures playing with each other, a comical goats head with horns being one figure) the paintings are much more interesting than the videos. Painted on Japanese paper in wax and acrylic the biomorphic forms of babies heads, torsos and sculpted free forms and designs suggestive of living organisms address the title of the exhibition: desire!

Wright plays with scale and form, using earth tones and a luminous palette of oranges, yellows and pinks. Her shape-shifting paintings work to unhinge stagnant systems of thought that surround identity and the body. The waxed Japanese paper adds to the sensuality of the skin-like work. A baby seems to feed on a double nipple but the nipple has missed the mouth and is invading the eye. Forms intersect and the sensual shapes slip over each other: as in the Zen idea of ‘satori’ or enlightenment attained when two circles intersect here we have the intersection of an erotic enlightenment.

As Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin notes the carnivalesque is the contravention of normal laws of behaviour, “and he proposes that the carnivalesque is also the home of the grotesque, where otherwise antithetical properties or characteristics are matched together in the same being: beast with human, youth with age, male with female.”1

“The carnival offers the chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realise the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things.”2

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And this is what these paintings propose: a new order of things, a chance for desires formed of new pleasures.

As Michel Foucault has observed,

“The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is very important. For instance, if you look at the traditional construction of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of the understanding of our bodies, our pleasures … It is very interesting to note, for instance, that for centuries people generally, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, and even liberation movements, have always spoken about desire, and never about pleasure. “We have to liberate our desire,” they say. No! We have to create new pleasure. And then maybe desire will follow.”3

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In their luminosity, in their skin-like textures, in their balance between the colour of the paper, the dark voids and the brown of babies heads we feel the sharp intake of the cold breathe of winter on the nostrils – we feel an evocation of new pleasure, of possible desires within us and the loosening of the grip of conformity. Like the perfect placement of rocks in a Japanese garden and the ripples of the gravel, of a reality that swirls around them these paintings open hearts and minds to inner states of being unexperienced before. And yes, I did enjoy the ride.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Sophie Gannon Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Buchbinder, David. Masculinities and Identities. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994, p. 53. For a discussion of carnivalesque see Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World (trans. Hélène Iswolsky). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, pp. 196-277, 303-367.
  2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World (trans. Hélène Iswolsky). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, p. 34.
  3. Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p. 31.

 

Judith Wright video installation

 

Judith Wright. 'Desire [14]' 2009

 

Judith Wright
Desire [14]
2009
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper
200 x 200 cm

 

Judith Wright. 'Desire [5]' 2009

 

Judith Wright
Desire [5]
2009
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper
100 x 100 cm

 

Judith Wright. 'Desire [7]' 2009

 

Judith Wright
Desire [7]
2009
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper
100 x 100 cm

 

Judith Wright. Desire [16]' 2009

 

Judith Wright
Desire [16]
2009
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper
300 x 300 cm

 

Judith Wright. 'The Gift [2]' 2009

 

Judith Wright
The Gift [2]
2008
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper

 

Judith Wright. 'The Gift [7]' 2008

 

Judith Wright
The Gift [7]
2008
Acrylic and wax on Japanese paper

 

 

Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne
Phone: +61 3 9421 0857

Opening hours:
Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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