Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cabinets and Curiosities

Yesterday I visited the Christchurch Art Gallery to take a look at “Force Field,” an amazing exhibition of work by major Australian artist, Fiona Hall. Sadly, the two photographs I’ve posted here in no way illustrate how truly incredible it is as a body of work. The intricate workmanship (especially in the beaded exhibits) and the detail in each piece is unbelievable; the concepts and ideas are wondrous and thought-provoking; the displays – with their entanglement of shadows, reflections and lights – quite stunning. I was transfixed. It was like walking into some twisted little private museum where every exhibit is slightly left of centre, where some mad scientist has been fiddling with Nature to extraordinary effect. I especially loved Tender – a breathtakingly beautiful collection of birds’ nests created from shredded American banknotes. As someone who has collected birds’ nests, I was in heaven. Two huge glass cabinets contained an amazing array of nests from multiple species – each replicated in shredded money. The glass on one cabinet was printed with the Latin names of each species the nests were modelled on; the second cabinet was printed with scrolls of numbers - the serial numbers of over 3,000 one dollar notes that Hall shredded to create the work. I was dazzled. I came away wondering what Fiona Hall might be like in person - for her intense, detailed and exquisitely perfect works seem to hint at a degree of obsession. Not that that should be seen as a criticism – I can be a little obsessive myself. But oh for a glimpse inside her mind!!! The works illustrated above are: Top: “Holdfast 2007” tin and aluminium; Collection of the Artist. Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley, 9 Gallery, Sydney. Bottom: “Cell Culture” Detail 2001-2002. Glass beads, silver wire, Tupperware. South Australian Government Grant 2002. Art Gallery of South Australia. Image Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley, 9 Gallery, Sydney.

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