Alex Asch, The golden pig toucher, mixed media
Mariana del Castillo, The revelation, mixed media
Bob Georgeson, Mons, mixed media
The exhibition, Construct: Sculpture in the house, is about to come down – so for those who missed it, we’re posting it for posterity. And what a beauty it was…
(Megsie’s) Curatorial overview:
This show follows closely on the heels of Bermagui’s Sculpture on the Edge and quite consciously so. The happy circumstance of a vacancy in our exhibition program provided us the opportunity to extend the sculptural schematic to an audience already primed and receptive, and to introduce them to work of a more intimate nature. Whereas sculpture historically conjures up notions of monumentality – of sentinel endurance and poised grandeur – wrought and forged and intrinsically conspicuous, the work of the artists in Construct is at once familiar and private and inversely monumental in terms of an almost epic domesticity. This exhibition still tackles all the big questions – sex, life and the universe – but in a visual language that tugs at our collective memory through a construct of the careworn, abandoned flotsam of everyday life. Indeed all three artists, whether in 2D or 3D, employ a complex layering of emotion, material and intent to throw light on specious social mores that give us pause to contemplate the myriad absurdities of life.
Ecuadorian born artist Mariana del Castillo and American Alex Asch met at art school in Canberra some 20 years years ago, and have been practicing in a symbiotically simpatico capacity ever since. Though maintaining strictly separate practices, what they do obviously share is a genuine love of material and a clear understanding of the connotations inherent in the use of that material. Both are committed recyclers, unerringly identifying the beauty of discarded ‘detritus’ – which in turn delivers both narrative and a multi-layering of poetic embellishment to their respective practices.
Del Castillo’s work is quite clearly influenced by her Ecuadorian roots. These ‘tableaus’ are imbued with the magic-realism found in the wider South American literary culture, and taking them in is akin to curling up with a favourite South American author. They’re so lyrical and mystical. So enthrallingly visceral. Each work an encapsulated narrative, a tender balance between a private biographical circumstance and the greater universal consciousness. This is, fundamentally, women’s business; cradling all the joy and pain that life entails. It stands both poised and literally pregnant with enshrined privacy – for which del Castillo makes no apology. We really don’t need to know the intimate particulars to feel the pith and the pathos. Nor does the ‘secrecy’ interfere with our intuitive appreciation of her rich aesthetic detailing.
Alex Asch’s aesthetic approach tends more toward the minimal. He is both drawn to naturalistic materials (metals and glass as opposed to plastics) and driven by the intellectual fascination vested in the re-invention of the found object. In this he subscribes to the school of Du Champ – with a Bostonian take, of course. His work invariable has a humorous edge – sagacious observations of the ironies in life – and he’s not one to shy away from socio-political concerns. (As anyone who has seen his recent Guantanamo Man series can attest.) But Asch’s brand of sedition is a soft-shoe shuffle; he pokes and prods gently at the wider social conscience – if only to ensure that the home fires of compassion still retain some spark. Invariably he cocks an eye at risible enigmas – the Ready to Wear piece, for instance, was prompted by the haute couture/prêt a porter scenario, and contemplates the brittle absurdities of the cat-walk and high fashion industry.
While maintaining very disparate practices, what Mariana and Alex do patently share is a genuine love of material and a clear understanding of the connotations inherent in the use of that material. The overriding sensibility is one of infinite charm and exculpation – of salvation in simplicity, beyond and despite the reckless inhumanity of our time. There’s something almost Shaker in Asch’s work which yet sits astonishingly well in apposition with del Castillo’s arcane ‘catholic’ memorabilia. Each, in their own way, pays homage to The Relic.
The voice of the third person in the show is that of Bermagui artist Bob Georgeson (winner of the SEMAG exhibition held here earlier this year.) His most recent work is photomontage – often a dense construct of compelling, symbolic imagery of a psycho-sexual nature that delves into the straticulate hypocrisies of social convention. His ongoing Bridal series explores the conflicts inherent in the romance versus reality conundrum of the time immemorial mating game. Captivated by bridal magazines found in op-shops, he strives to reconcile the modesty of the veil with the louche sexuality of the garter. For Georgeson, the bride is the universal sacrificial lamb, central player in a coyly titivating ritual that masks a darker purpose. Here love and desire are caught in the erotic mesh of a carefully marketed and mannerly, staged drama – where bridezilla secretes the excesses of her cheap and sleazy hen’s night in the demure folds of unimpeachable white, and the complexity of the marriage bed wreaks havoc on the romance. In this modern day Dickens, Miss Havisham gets her wedding day, but the bouquet wilts and decays regardless. Georgeson is a dadaist at heart, and consequently at odds with cultural and intellectual conformity. His practice is a balanced assemblage of decorous imagery offset by a quiet cynicism, and is at once mesmerizing and repellant in its contrivance of an inevitably deviant beauty. And yet surely we can detect just a hint of tenderness for the very vulnerability of that doomed dream.
Construct: Sculpture in the house is a complex show, representing astute artistic handling of both media and concept. There is a fascinating visual dialogue at play in the room. And – glued together by diverse sentiment and strung on humanist ideology – an almost unfathomable yearning for the safety of the (metaphoric)womb.
Alex Asch, Guitars, mixed media
Alex Asch, collage series
For more snaps, go here.