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Tony Garifalakis, Anonymous Tony Garifalakis, Anonymous
courtesy the artist
LOVE, REPRESENTATION AND POPULAR CULTURE ENTERED INTO A KNOTTY MÉNAGE À TROIS IN PROJECT 12: THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG AT ANNA PAPPAS GALLERY IN MELBOURNE. EXPLORING WHAT LOVE IS AND ISN’T, FROM THE IMPASSIONED TO THE ETHEREAL AND THE ILLUSIVE, 15 ARTISTS FROM AUSTRALIA AND ABROAD WERE BROUGHT TOGETHER BY CURATORS ANNA PAPPAS AND LAURA CASTAGNINI AND GIVEN LICENCE TO DEPICT, UNPICK AND REMAKE THE NOTION OF LOVE IN A RANGE OF MANIFESTATIONS.

While the work of artists like Sue Dodd and Salote Tawale touched darkly and disturbingly on the twisted desire of celebrity culture, others approached love with open-hearted curiosity and candour. Malcolm Whittaker’s extension of his A Lover’s Discourse project, titled Personal Classifieds 2012—What Would You Love Someone to Love About You?, takes the form of four documentary photos of subjects sourced through personals columns. To each he asked the question of the work’s title and with each photo their response is printed on a side panel. Audacious in its simplicity, the work is realist, voyeuristic and as straightforward as the kids’ toys on the carpet in one photo, or the tidy kitchen bench in another.

Heidi Holmes also takes a straightforward premise, creating an elegant ‘lover’s discourse’ from the list of names of the people she and her husband had sex with before they met one another. The two-column list (one for him and one for her) is accompanied by a recording, on headphones, of the conversation during which the list was written. At face value The List is humorous and light, and at the same time dignified by the clean white frame and gallery setting. But between the lines—lines like “I was not really keen but sorta keen” and names like “Chris...pregnancy scare” is a powerful sense of honesty and the nitty-gritty of sex coexisting—a ‘love’ infinitely more complex than what we think of when we think about love.

Romantic love is also the subject of Tony Garifalakis’ Anonymous. As clean and elegant as Holmes’ work, Anonymous consists of 15 bullets in a neat perspex display case, each engraved with a single capital letter to form the sentence “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” If physically beautiful objects, their soft-glowing gold and bronze colouring and perfection of form disturb. Phallic but also feminine, the coppery tips like unsheathed lipsticks. Though the obvious reading is a dark and conflicted one, the bullets look less like ammunition than carefully polished brightwork, to the extent that one wonders whether perhaps they deliver something other than destruction.

In the work of Garifalakis and Danae Valenza alike, the contradictory qualities of metal—its hardness and malleability, its seeming permanence and corrodability—become metaphors that evade easy interpretation. Valenza’s It’s Just a Matter of Deciding Where to Begin creates a synaesthetic relationship between three objects around the phrase of the work’s title. On the gallery wall, the text is engraved in reverse on a small brass plate while a music box plays the same phrase, translated into Braille on the metal scroll of the instrument. A ‘blind composition’ on paper—a series of painted dots suggesting Morse code, tickertape symbols or, of course, Braille—completes a trio that balances tactility and curiosity, evoking a sensuality that ultimately cannot be contained by its constituent media.

Zoe Scoglio with interaction designer Chris Heywood, Inter-radiessence Zoe Scoglio with interaction designer Chris Heywood, Inter-radiessence
courtesy the artist
From Lucas Grogan’s enormous needlepoint Private Island and Darren Sylvester’s large-scale Lightjet prints to the intimacy of Meredith Turnbull and Ross Coulter’s almost ephemeral white stoneware in Love Wedge, the works in Project 12: This is Not A Love Song embody states of being from cynicism or nostalgia to spirituality and intimacy. Most arcane is the relational world created by Zoe Scoglio and Cait Foran in Inter-radiessence. On a plinth, under slightly twitching mauve light, a tiny landscape is created from small rocks, crystals, pieces of coloured plasticine and two small vials, one containing an eerie turquoise liquid. Two hand prints are marked out: a pair of viewers each places a hand on the outline, and then closes the circuit by placing their other hands together, over a blue dot.

Sound and light play differently for each new connection: in one, trembling shards of shadow or light grow out of fingertips and all the other objects, like crystals, creating a sense of identification with the ostensibly inanimate props. In other ‘incarnations,’ kaleidoscopic bands of colour or clouds of rainbow ‘dust’ appear—in one, tendrils of smoke seem to curl from the fingertips—all suggesting unseen energies brought to light. To a changing soundtrack of chirpy, thunderous or eerie tones, the work is both playful and finely wrought, and a fitting completion to the gamut of approaches to the theme.


Project 12: This Is Not a Love Song, artists Marco Paulo Rollo, Salote Tawale, Ben Coonley, Darren Sylvester, Heidi Holmes, Malcolm Whittaker, Zoe Scoglio and Cait Foran, Tony Garifalakis, Danae Valenza, Sue Dodd, Lucas Grogan, Irene Hanenbergh, Meredith Turnbull and Ross Coulter; Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne, Feb 7-March 10

RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 44

© Urszula Dawkins; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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