The Shadows Grow Darker, the Sun More Sad

Art Life , Reviews Apr 05, 2004 No Comments

It’s getting to be that time again in Sydney when summer fades into autumn and the shadows are darker, the sun light in the afternoon more yellow and, no matter how much coffee and cake we consume, we can’t shake the poet’s disease. Melancholy can’t be far away and art is supposed to help, so we started out on a big art tour and went to see what we could see.

Call us superficial but any show called TOO MUCH SUGAR is enticing and expecting a quick pick-me-up we wandered into the Saint Sophia Hall. The Kudos Gallery is the exhibition space of the Student’s Association of the UNSW’s College of Fine Arts and they’ve been renting the Greek Orthodox Church Hall at the back of South Dowling Street for years now. The shows are a real pot luck option, oscillating between greatest hits group shows and ill-advised solo outings. TOO MUCH SUGAR is an example of the former and the quality was surprisingly low, hovering somewhere between Art Express and promising new comers who had a neat idea but were let down by slightly crappy execution.

Robyn Buchanan has a problem (apparently). Exhibiting realistic looking psychiatric assessments and letters from her solicitors, she is attempting to Sue the 1980s for emotional damage, breach of promise, pain and suffering, etc, etc. The idea is that the decade owes the artist some sort of recompense and to prove her claims, Buchanan also exhibits a cassette tape of dodgy 80s hits (Billy Ocean et al), leg warmers, shoulder pads and photos of herself with enormous hair, Wayfarer sunglasses and big, loose-fit cardigans. Buchanan puts forth a pretty convincing case.

It’s completely circumstantial of course, and the artist would probably be old enough now to put the whole sorry decade of CHOOSE LIFE, Live Aid and “sexy” Olivia Newton John videos into some sort of sensible, mature perspective. The other problem with the art work, aside from the fairly funny and flip idea, is that the way it has been put together is all too neat and tidy. Wouldn’t a mind that distressed be closer to disorder? Or is that the essence of the 80s?

We never finished that thought as we became distracted by a cow in a video called Surreel #1 Treading Water In The Bar(re)n by Felix Suttler. Give anything a title with a pun on ‘surreal’ in it and we’re totally mesmerized and if it has a cow, all the better. If you start using pointless parentheses we’re hooked. In Suttler’s video installation (which is just a TV on a stage) there’s a cow (looking a bit confused) digitally placed into a landscape (mountains, plains). And that’s it. Pretty surreal, huh?

Next to the stage area where Suttler’s video sits is a giant castle made out of cardboard. It’s called Castle and it costs $10. The artist, Phoebe Torzillo, knows no one is going to buy it so she’s taken the logical step of offering it at a price no one could refuse if you were in the market for a giant, cardboard castle. Sculpturally, it’s very nice too, glued together into a huge mass that looks like you could lift it with the tip of your finger, edges frayed and rough. Walking around the work we noticed that an electric cord ran from inside the castle but wasn’t plugged in. While we considered asking the gallery assistant if anything cool happened if it was turned on, we saw that the top of he castle looked like a head, perhaps even with a crown on. Was this some kind of statement? Some sort of comment on something? Was the artist just making a great big pile of cardboard with a hidden message? We became frightened and decided to leave and walked right into the middle of a protest.

Andrew Frost

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