The Abduction of Europa, 2017, music box assemblage
This work is based on Ovid’s myth of Europa and Zeus and the Rembrandt painting The Abduction of Europa. In the myth, Zeus disguised himself as a white bull, and lured Europa onto his back before abducting her. On winding the work from underneath the bull bucks Europa up and down.
The work is based on a fair ground shooting gallery and explores the whimsy and darkness of carnivals. On winding a key on the side of the cabinet a fairground tune plays on a music box whilst a conveyor belt moves and the ducks become moving targets. The Kewpie Dolls in the top layer are prizes for the shooting gallery and run the risk of a stray bullet. The vintage Kewpie Dolls in the kitchen appear to be preparing a meal of roast duck and vegetables. There is a hidden rifle in the corner of the kitchen.
Five new music box assemblages are in a group exhibition at Stella Downer, Fine Art from 5 July – 30 July 2016. The works are automated by music box mechanisms and handmade mechanical parts.
The female figures in 4 of these works are made from plastic, replica toys from the 1960s that I have cut-up and reassembled in order to pose in different positions. Subverting the notion of the traditional ‘unattainable’ music box ballerina twirling in front of a mirror, the females in these assemblages might straddle a horse or a steer. They ride the animals with 1960’s plastic cowboys. The body language and tension between the figures in the work juxtaposes ideas of childhood innocence, and wonder against an adult’s sense of danger and desire.
The 5th work above, The Goose Girl, is based on one of Grimms’ fairy tales, that tells of a ‘chosen bride’ who is forced to swap places with her criminal maid under threat of death. The intended husband’s suspicions are roused, so he follows and watches the ‘Goose Girl’ while she tends the geese, eventually discovering her secret. With a pastiche of narratives and styles, this work is a music box set in a reconstructed antique mantel clock-case (to which I have added the columns). The case becomes reminiscent of an old baroque theatre with a Hitchcockian style backdrop made from an old chocolate box lid. On winding the key, the Goose Girl ‘dances’ to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake whilst her suitor watches.
The assemblages in this exhibition are kinetic. On winding the work, shadows of figures move past the window blinds. The work was made for the Suburban Noir exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, curated by author and historian Peter Doyle, in response to a series of police forensic photographs of Greater Sydney from the 50′s and 60′s. Also participating in the exhibition were Vanessa Berry, Dallas Bray, Rhett Brewer, Charles Cooper, Theresa Darmody, Bruce Latimer, Michael Lewy, Frank Littler, Reg Mombassa, Peter O’Doherty, Ken Searle, Susannah Thorne and Anne Wallace.
This exhibition breaks with the tradition of presenting Sydney as a visual splendour, finding instead a more reserved city. The police photographs capture the spaces left behind: a moody catalogue of vacant lots, empty roads, desolate interiors and everyday fragments of life in these hard-bitten slices of Sydney. Look at these images long enough and everything starts to look like a crime scene. Guest curator Peter Doyle invited a group of visual artists to loan existing works or create new works in response to the forensic photographs. They have responded with diverse visual sensitivities and understanding, finding drama and tragedy but also surprising stateliness and dramatic beauty.Suburban Noir, Museum of Sydney