At Roslyn Oxley9, the gallery gets off to a new year with a show of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s newish work ranging from two video pieces, a group of paintings and a collection of mixed media sculptures. Kusama is an artist who has claimed the dot for herself. We know, it seems kind of crazy to claim the dot or the stripe or the circle or the square as your “thing” but that’s what artists did back in the 20th century and for a Japanese woman in New York in 1958, dots were probably cheap and available. Also knowing that the artist has spent a lot of time in psychiatric care and lived for a time in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo joins the dots. There’s no doubting the intensity with which Kusama intends her work to be taken – something as least as equal to the intensity with which it is made – and the psychedelic impact of her works are persuasive.
As you walk into Oxley you see a plasma screen TV on the stairs screening Flower Obsession- Gerbera in which the artist is seen against a computer generated dot field sticking gerberas in her hair. The other DVD piece, Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict, is more low-fi affair with the artist in front of one of her paintings reciting poetry in a sort of psychedelic acid mothers temple style. The main body of the show is the paintings and mixed media works. Having never seen Kusama’s paintings in the flesh before it was surprising to discover how rough they are – from the slightly warped canvases to the tentatively applied circles and the uneven background finishes they look far better in reproduction than they do in real life. They probably wouldn’t work that well in isolation but as a body of work their weird aesthetic carries them through. It’s the same aesthetic that Guy Benfield is currently appropriates for his performances, that high 60s style of ultra-modernist-meets-hippie performance with some inscrutably odd Japanese thing going on in the background. In the same way that Paul Auster “created” Sophie Calle , Haruki Murakami would have to invent Kusama if she didn’t already exist.
It must be a hard to be paired with Kusama, but Jacqueline Fraser who has the small out the back gallery has done a great job in staking her own claim. We have to confess we don’t really understand (and we know that when we say that kind of thing we have readers throwing up their hands and saying – oh come on, it’s so easy!) but we would never have thought that what looks like a homage to haute couture is in fact an anti war statement:
“Jacqueline Fraser’s most recent works are witty reflections on the attempts of Western societies to come to terms with an angst instilled by war and terror and offer poignant and sharp diagnoses of a schizophrenic political and social condition that attempts to maintain both a state of emergency and business as usual.
“Fraser’s formal approach to this end is unique. Her works combine magnificent textile materials such as haute couture fabrics, lace and brocade with more modest elements such as thread, cord, wire, ribbon and cable. She then curves, bends, cuts, drapes, hangs and arranges these materials into fragile forms. Like figures out of fashion magazines, they are reminiscent of children’s dress up dolls or emblematic drawings and are presented in expansive installations that transform the gallery space into labyrinthine textile chambers of baroque artifice. – Astrid Mania (excerpt from forthcoming article on Jacqueline Fraser for Art Asia Pacific)”
If you are going out to protest the war there is no reason you can’t do it looking fabulous, that’s what we’ve always thought, and Fraser offers up a whole lot of stunning combinations to halt the schizophrenic state of mind we all inhabit (those of us outisde the actual war zone that is): pants, hats, skirts, drapes etc…