Society’s Cycles

Alternating Current ArtSpace
Alchemy – Janice GOBEY
‘Vicious Cycle’

Janice Gobey’s long obsession with fur continues in her latest exhibition Alchemy at the Alternating Current ArtSpace. Her art doesn’t need words. She works on connecting to people on a non-verbal level. She’d like people to feel the work more than view it in a logical, rational way. So pause for a moment, and take a look at the piece Vicious Cycle. Feel it.

Janice GOBEY
‘Vicious Cycle’

Art is powerful in its non-verbal communication, allowing the viewer to think and bring their own discourse. But in sharing our views we may be able to clarify our thoughts, looking further, thinking deeper and seeing more. An attempt to breach the obscurity of a single image.

I see hands reaching, stretching out to touch pieces of animal skin and fur. It’s no longer recognisable what animal these were, nor what piece of body they once covered. They’ve been manipulated by man into nothing more than shapes and textures. This bit, soft and white. Another pink, the skin on the inside showing – more obviously something that was once living. They’ve been twisted, pulled and trapped into a circle. Those hands reaching, coming from off the canvas, were perhaps the makers – twisting that long strip of cured skin. Not any one person but the symbol of humankind twisting nature to their will. No longer do we fit into the circle of life, but rather we have created a cycle of death. As the title suggests it’s a ‘Vicious Cycle’.

The pastel palette softens the potentially gruesome subject, giving it a feminine beauty. An image comes to mind, from Charlotte Wood’s book ‘The Natural Way of Things’:

9781760111236“By the end she wore a ragged skirt of rabbit bodies and clinking steel traps. Fur, steel, fur, steel. The flesh soon glued to the belt with blood, the heads and ears swung like heavy feathers as she moved.” In this book, the character Yolanda hunts for survival – a fight for life, a fight against mistreatment at the hands of men and the society that created it. Another vicious cycle.

With undergraduate studies in Psychology and Society, Gobey brings this understanding of people and, the world we live in, to her practice. She has explored women’s issues, particularly violence against women, as well as trauma and healing, and now her concern for global politics is explored in Alchemy. She grew up in Apartheid South Africa and is concerned with the resurgence of nationalism. Wishing for an alternative dialogue of peace, healing and tolerance. It seems there are a lot of vicious cycles where humans are concerned.

Perhaps by titling her exhibition Alchemy, she is sharing the desire for the ‘base material’ of human nature to be transformed into something more ‘noble’ – like lead turning into gold. It’s an impossible goal, but the study of Alchemy has led to discoveries in science. Perhaps in the study of the human condition there can be discoveries in peace and tolerance. A more hopeful thought, that doesn’t quite chase away the darker feelings I’m left with after viewing Vicious Cycle.

Unseen Spaces in Highlight

A little while ago I went to the exhibition and talk by Shaun Tan at Tinning Street Presents, “Every Place is the Same”. And as I read Murakami now, those images are coming back to me. They both share an interest in the relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Tan’s landscapes, often those urban spaces you see every day, become a place of whimsy and beauty – showing their potential to be extraordinary.

Murakami’s work is no less whimsical or beautiful, but almost a direct opposite. As he shows us the ordinary in the extraordinary. The easy acceptance of the impossible, makes it seem almost every day.

Can we constantly be in these two states? Schrödinger’s thought experiment was to disprove using the Quantum mechanical superposition state on everyday objects, but perhaps we can – in a more metaphysical sense. We are both ordinary and extraordinary, until observing the system forces the system to collapse and forces the object into just one of those possible states.

Or perhaps there is just two type of people as Murakami writes in “A Wild Sheep Chase”“Now people can generally be classified into two groups: the mediocre realist and the mediocre dreamers.” (page 180)

But then what would I know, “It’s an illusion that we know anything at all.” (page 125)

I love to read a Murakami novel in those in-between places, clinical by nature, like airports and hotel bars – where time is meaningless. Those sort of places I can see Tan painting into something extraordinary.

Even better if I have something warm to sip when I read lines like “In which there is nothing” (page 85). There’s truth in a lot of what he says, especially, “The second whisky is always my favourite.” (page 100).

I may be buying a bottle of Nikka Whisky From the Barrel when I finish this book.

Walking in Both Directions

I had seen Emily Ferretti’s work at the Sophie Gannon Gallery, so when I heard she was launching an art book, ‘Walking in Both Direction‘ I had to go along.

The sun was blasting down on my walk to the Gertrude Glasshouse, and I was red faced and sweaty when I arrived, but inside was cool and fresh.  Slightly nervous, and probably even redder than before, I brought a book and asked for a signature, silently appreciating our taste in hats. 

Ahh the smell of a new book. It’s beautifully produced. A lovely way to enjoy work such as these.


Here is joy and neglect

The book: M Train by Patti Smith

If you feel drawn to cafes, Polaroid photos and off-track travel, then prepare to delve into the measured pace of Patti Smith – there will be moments of understated humour, unexpected adventures and meditative thought.

The drink: Del Maguey Vida

The first sip instantly warms, sending you straight into the heat of Mexico, but it does not burn. A surprisingly smooth sip with a complex earthy palate that hints of a fruity sweetness. It’s a pure mescal, hand-crafted in San Luis del Río, twice distilled in small wood-fired copper stills.

The setting: Find yourself an old armchair, ideally one with a past that lingers in its worn thread, and tells a story in a creak as you curl into its arms. Or wander the streets until you find yourself in a dim cafe with faded photos and quiet charm.

I felt a connection to this book, or at least a striving to connect, just as Patti Smith seems to strive to connect to the past. To me, it comes down to a longing to have the freedom, and the nerve, to spend days within one’s own head – to fade into obscure thought and come out clearer. The idea that these words brought – ‘No one knew where I was. No one was expecting me.’ – was intoxicating.

Artwork based on the cover of ‘M Train by Patti Smith

I had moments of looking out a window, contemplating words and life. Patti Smith seems to have lived a life of many dreams, some she
acts upon with passion, other’s she’s happy from them in exist in thoughts and words only. It reminded me that sometimes I can allow dreams to be dreams, without the pressure to start pulling them down into reality. As Smith reminisces on her husband’s words ‘Not all dreams need to be realised’. With these words I needed a sip of something strong. It was a difficult choice between these two: vodka, as Smith has in Berlin, with black coffee and caviar; or mescal, represented by empty bottles left behind by the cowpoke, and scattered with ‘neglect and love’ in her room.

I decided on mescal (also spelt mezcal) as I can see Smith appreciating the ‘artisan’ quality of the spirit. Made from agave, succulents native to Mexico and the southern United States, mescal is mainly distilled in family-owned back rooms, with traditional copper or earthen pots. Some more good news, agave is not a depressant.

I was a little nervous to try a mescal, I still get shivers thinking of past tequila shots. I passed that rite of passage in my teenage years and wasn’t tempted to re-live that burning experience. But, unlike the most-likely bulk exported cheap-arse tequila that made those memories, the mescals I tried are meant to be appreciated and sipped. If you like good tequila or whisky, you will enjoy mescal. If you’re not sure, I would recommend having a beer on hand that compliments the tastes, like Pacifico.

Del Maguey was started by artist, Ron Cooper, who has said “Many of us in the outer, modern world have lost our history and sense of tradition… it is a big hole in many people’s psyche…”. A sentiment that seems to be shared in ‘M Train’. Reading it brought about a nostalgia for history I haven’t felt before. As well as a longing for travel and culture, that doesn’t ever seem to go away. But reading ‘M Train’ and sipping some Del Maguey Vida helps.

Now all I need is some brown bread and olive oil.