Rosslynd Piggott: I Sense You But I Cannot See You
This survey of the one of Melbourne’s best contemporary artists covers four decades of work from the ’80s to now. With over 100 works, it’s big but doesn’t feel weighed down. Instead, it’s like following a single train of thought as it evolves with the passage of time.
Piggott’s practice is varied, incorporating painting, sculpture, textiles, photography and curious bits in between. She bookmarks fine details and abstract ideas, then return to them years later. Blooms. Pale colours. Bodies. Reflections. Air. Water. The way skin stretches, and the shape and texture of glass.
The most common theme, though, is absence. A video of what looks like the ocean turns out to be a trick of the light. Glass containers are labelled as containing breath, so we can only suppose they do, and a row of 100 seemingly empty drinking vessels are etched with the names of things they might contain, from the solid to the abstract: gold, milk, Egypt, horse, longing, mermaid, today. Who can say what substance longing has, or what body a whisper has? Are they as real as breath? A lone glass at the end is simply labelled “desire”. Then, 14 empties.
Each piece is like another sentence in the description of a long dream. But beyond all the pastels and airy ideas, there’s a handful of black works tucked in a corner –photographs of a body in exaggerated mourning attire, and sculptures with deep reflective surfaces that seem to envelop everything around them in darkness.
Rosslynd Piggott: I Sense You But I Cannot See You is showing at NGV Australia until August 18.
Insideout by Peter Waples-Crowe
Ngarigo artist Peter Waples-Crowe likes a grand statement. He likes protest art, flamboyance and subverting expectations, and in this show he explores the border between two different marginalised identities – Indigenous and queer – with colour and wit.
Ethnographic drawings of Aboriginal people are subverted with rainbows, dicks and liberal application of pink paint. The centrepiece of the show is Ngarigo Queen – Cloak of queer visibility (2018), a traditional possum-pelt cloak lined with rainbow patchwork. Waples-Crowe’s spirit animal is the dingo: hunters’ prey, an animal often misunderstood. It’s safe here, appearing throughout as a symbol of defiance in nature.
Insideout by Peter Waples-Crowe is at the Koorie Heritage Trust until July 28.
Temptation to Co-Exist: Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley
Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley have been creating art, together and separately, for more than three decades. Between them their work covers philosophy, feminism and film theory through sculpture, photography and furniture design.
This show is a tapestry of references and talking points. With their collaboration taking shape during the height of postmodernism in the ’80s and ’90s, with its commentary on mass production and cultural commodification, there’s a real anti-corporate feel to this work.
Words play a big part, from short slogans to longer passages rendered in paint and light. Images and phrases are repeated, becoming like brand names. A bright neon snake curling around the words “fear eats the soul” is both a neon sign and a T-shirt design. A wall of shields bearing the insignia of corporate brands and protest movements alike positions the whole show as a kind of artistic warfare.
Cinema plays a big part, too. The show’s title comes from the work Temptation To Exist (Tippi) (1986). It’s a split image of American actress Tippi Hedren in the film The Birds, her face cut by bird-attacks. The splintering of the image is perhaps a reference to the Hedren’s treatment at the hands of domineering and abusive director Alfred Hitchcock during filming.
Elsewhere at Heide right now, there’s a warm and affectionate selection of work from the late Mirka Mora, and ancient Arnhem Land rock art photographed by John Gollings. Make an afternoon of it.
Temptation to Co-Exist: Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley is at Heide until July 14 .
The Cola Wars by Philjames
Anyone who’s wandered past centuries-old masterpieces in a major art gallery and found themselves thinking about cartoons instead will feel right at home with the work of Sydney artist Philjames. This collection of paintings adorns the old with the new – or sabotages the classical and traditional with the crass and disposable, depending on your point of view. As someone who grew up with The Simpsons at home and religious imagery at school, it’s a little unsettling to see them both in the one place. And yet it makes perfect sense.
So, with escalating levels of offensiveness, expect the following: Queen Elizabeth II depicted with cartoon bulging eyes and a waggling tongue; a nun grappling with temptation, an angel and devil perched on each shoulder; the Virgin Mary cradling a mutant version of Spongebob; and Jesus Christ wearing a Lisa Simpson T-shirt while carrying the cross on his back.
The Cola Wars by Philjames is at Nicholas Thompson Gallery until May 19.
I Have Something to Show You by Matilda Davis
You may have seen artist Matilda Davis’s table at the NGV’s recent Art of Dining event. Davis designed a children’s table of patchwork quilts, sequined and embroidered glassware, with a doll’s house at the centre of it all.
Framed with fabric and beads and textile off-cuts, the seven paintings in this show complement the uneasy childhood imagery of Davis’s dining table. Each represents one day in the Genesis creation story, recalling the work of Mexican surrealist Leonora Carrington with its purple skies, flying fish, strange machines and creeping tree roots.
Davis went to Catholic school and tells me she draws on a huge bank of religious symbolism and ideas for work that is a mix of the personal and the mythological.
“I got stuck on this idea of me as a painter taking on a god, mother, ego thing. I was fighting with my paintings,” Davis says. “I’d love them, then hate them. I wanted to flesh this idea out.”
I Have Something To Show You is on at Neon Parc’s city gallery until May 25.