Fair Play,

Music Box Assemblage, 2017

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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This exhibition was curated by Rilka Oakley and plays with the parallels found between the artist collecting for creative inspiration and the tourist collecting souvenirs as a reminder of place. Just as artists (and tourists) travel to the Blue Mountains to capture the stunning views and magnificent landscape, travel to other places is key to the creative process of many of the artists who live and work there. Other artists in the exhibition include David Brazil, Elaine Campaner, Ona Janzen, Mathew Lynn, Judith Martinez, Brad Moore, Janelle Randall-Court, Wendy Tsai and Kayo Yokoyama.

The keepsake plays an important role in my own art practice. I search for objects that I feel are imbued with a certain meaning – especially old toys, dolls and marionettes – and use them to create a narrative. The  narrative is often based on fairytales, myths or popular culture – the toys become the characters and the old tins, boxes and containers become the stage. This new context alters the toys meaning and allows me to juxtapose notions of childhood, innocence and wonder against adult themes of desire, fear and death. I often cut up the toys and reconstruct them with handmade mechanisms and create motion and sound by using music-box movements. Wind a key and a ventriloquist dummy’s head will rotate like a fairground clown from Luna Park – or the maiden, Europa, might ride a bucking bull whilst her handmaiden twirls with surprise.

http://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/blue-mountains-art-gallery/past-exhibitions/