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Strange Attraction Catalogue Foreword

Emily Purser
Curator

Strange Attraction

 

'Strangers have to introduce themselves. Animals start sniffing at one another; people ask for credentials. I saw a movie once about Samson and Delilah. As she stepped out from the water, he asked her ‘Who are you?’ and she said ‘Who do you want me to be?’ They both made a mistake.’(Marlene Dumas; Name No Names, 2001)

 

Throughout the exhibition, performativity and process, layered narratives and personal histories converge. In each of the artworks and in each of the artists’ practices, these elements are dealt with and communicated in different ways through various mediums: painting, installation, sculpture, drawing, collage.

 

The works in Strange Attraction are pulled together by mutual concerns, with themes and ideas overlapping with one another, creating new dialogues and new interpretations. Many of the works use a performative method of painting. The canvas is an arena on which to act.

 

As in the strong, gestural marks used by Vanessa Mitter, paint is heavily layered, the image often washed away and then reclaimed, collaged and covered as part of the making process. And in the intuitive decision-making of Hannah Campion: gathering materials, objects and paint which combine to make new structures. This process of transformation from original is significant, emphasizing the concepts of change and the work’s transient nature. Andrew Mania describes how: ‘the picture changes through the process of drawing… Mistakes are often the best moment - you have to creatively deal with them, and that's when you often do something completely new’[1].

 

In all of the artists' practices, chance and fortuitous accident are part of the making; instinct being a powerful driving force. The unexpected combinations of materials find themselves pieced together, balanced, fighting, in opposition…strange objects that resemble something familiar, but not quite. There is a tension between the objects, each seeming to have their own identity.

 

Lana Locke’s visibly fragile compositions often reference the internal and external human body. The objects seem to, at once, have their own reality and take on a human-like presence of their own. As described by Kristeva, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. This idea, which is prevalent in Locke’s compositions, resonates with the ‘abject narratives’ of Mitter’s paintings, ‘a narrative that wanders in and around the artifice of the material’[2].

 

In Strange Attraction – pairs, pulling against each other, but entwined, are in symbiosis. It is an aesthetic that explores potentialities of singular objects and assemblages looking to fundamentally create new spaces of possibility. These assemblages and symbiotic relationships are physical in the space; present also in the narratives and personal histories within each of the artists’ practices.

 

Lady Lucy’s work is an exploration of identity and biography. Her works are imbued with theatricality through a process that merges social practice and painting; physically bringing people together and referring to elements of art history. The layered imagery recreates the stories of encounters with people and their historical contexts. 

 

The series of paintings by Eleanor Moreton in Strange Attraction are based on Douglas Sirk’s film All That Heaven Allows (1955), which ‘follows the blossoming love between a well-off widow and her handsome and earthy younger gardener’. The film is about class and conformity in small-town America and has been described as ‘a pinnacle of expressionistic Hollywood melodrama’[3]. Moreton’s paintings take these narratives and weave them into her own beliefs, truths, stories and those of her past. In so doing, the paintings become far more than the image they originated from.

 

            I deal with second-hand images and first-hand experiences.[4]

 

The narrative elements in Mania's drawings and installations resonate with Moreton's explorations of personal and cultural history. Both artists construct works using elements of the past and the present, allowing both to seductively coexist. Mania’s idiosyncratic work is built from highly personal origins. Each of the portraits catches your gaze, staring directly back at the viewer. Through a direct focus on mark-making, colour, pattern and texture, there is a sense of romanticism and a longing for a lost world of beauty and innocence.

 

The correspondence that exists between the works develops in to a correspondence with the viewer. Art is a way to talk to strangers. The works have a capacity for, not simply communicating, but rather for acting, for constructing and performing an identity.

 

 

 

[1] Andrew Mania, The Guardian, 2009

[2] Alice Butler, 2015

[3] Criterion.com

[4] Marlene Dumas, 1994

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