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Filmic thematic at IMA

Barbara Bolt

Annette Bezor, Blush Annette Bezor, Blush
The inclusion of Maryanne Lynch’s film Pyjama Girl in the latest offering at the IMA in Brisbane was an astute and successful curatorial decision. A particularly powerful film in its own right Pyjama Girl also provided a catalyst, that set in motion a dialogue between the 4 exhibitions on show.
I may have missed the pivotal role of Pyjama Girl if it had been showing when I first visited the IMA in early February. It is easy to miss such curatorial decisions, since in the most remarkable of exhibitions, the hand of the curator is invisible to the eye. We experience it as ‘just right’ and question no further. However, on my first visit to the IMA, everything was not ‘just right’. The exhibitions of Anne Zahalka (Fortresses and Frontiers), Anne Wallace (High Anxiety) and Annette Bezor (Blush) were up, but there was a strange and strained silence in the space. The projection room was locked and the only indication that Lynch’s work was supposed to be part of the show was a small sign on the door, Maryanne Lynch—Pyjama Girl.

In this context, the work of Zahalka, Wallace and Bezor appeared as a series of 3 independent exhibitions. At one level this impression was understandable. Each show was essentially a solo exhibition. Yet it didn’t quite add up. The combined catalogue and the advertising suggested that there was a greater connection within the show than all the exhibitors sharing “Anne” as part of their name.

Second time round, discordant mechanical sounds seeped from the screening room creating a sense of unease. Zahalka’s light box images of Sydney became more alienated and Wallace’s paintings attained a state of high anxiety. Lynch’s Pyjama Girl had escaped the confines of the projection room and implicated itself in the life of the other work. In this, Pyjama Girl set in motion a powerful dialogue, not just between the works within each artist’s exhibition, but also between the different exhibitions. Bezor’s work, alone, remained aloof to the pull of the Pyjama Girl.

Powerful filmmaking has the potential to collapse the viewer into the medium. In her nonlinear expressionistic narrative of the life and death of Linda Agostini, an Italian immigrant murdered by her husband in the 30s, Lynch’s film implicates the viewer in the drama through being shot from the point of view of the murder victim. In this tightly edited and taut short film, Lynch produces a dread and palpable anxiety that isn’t easy to shake off.

This sense is carried through to the work of Wallace. Borrowing from the tradition of film noir, her paintings are like film stills and in them we experience an unfolding drama. Stylistically, Wallace’s paintings have a strong resonance with Lynch’s film and, at their best, produce a similar psychological tension. In this context, I found myself creating a narrative linking the 2 shows. In the slightly smudged lipstick and vacant expression of the woman in The Indifferent (2000), death seems to lurk. I am transported back to the dramatic life and death of Linda Agostini. But then again, perhaps the character in The Indifferent is precisely that: indifferent. Here the work follows another trajectory—it aches with the loneliness and the isolation of contemporary life. Wallace’s work takes up a conversation with the photographs of Zahalka.

The dislocation and isolation felt in the characters of Wallace’s paintings pervades Zahalka’s work. In her photographs of Sydney, she provides us with iconic images of alienation—isolated human figures overwhelmed by the immensity of the urban landscape. In these light box images, the noise of Sydney is muted and the figures appear to move aimlessly in a strange hyper-real light. The sense of foreboding in the images becomes magnified as the eerie industrial sounds of Lynch’s film insinuate themselves into the space.

The mood of Bezor’s paintings contrasts with the tension created through the rest of the show. Her monumental self-possessed women swell beyond their frames filling the gallery space with a great calm. Given the serene and enigmatic quality emanating from her paintings, it may at first seem odd to program Bezor’s work alongside Lynch, Zahalka and Wallace. However, I found it took the petulant self-possession of Bezor’s paintings to break the psychic tension created in and between the work of the other three.

High Anxiety, Anne Wallace; Pyjama Girl, Maryanne Lynch; Fortresses and Frontiers, Anne Zahalka; Blush, Annette Bezor, IMA Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Jan 31-March 5

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 30

© Barbara Bolt; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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