Thursday, February 07, 2008
I have always made altars, in one form or another, even if, for a time, I didn't realise what they were. It began when I was in my teens. Wherever I lived, I assembled installations that combined found objects – bones, feathers, weathered or polished stones – with small personal keepsakes or luck fetishes. Later, I developed an interest in the syncretic religious ceremonies and iconography of voodoo and santeria. I began adding plastic statues of the Virgin Mary, rosary beads and different types of crosses and crucifixes. They became more complex and almost ceremonial, even though I'm neither spiritual nor superstitious.I've always enjoyed the slow, contemplative way in which these altars come into being: every element is mulled over for a long time and as many individual pieces are taken away as are added. They change, too, over time – sometimes, I suspect, even without my intervention. I wonder if some pieces are haunted by an unknown, arcane history.There's no question that my altars are a form of art. Their creation has been as much a constant in my life as my drawing and painting – and the emotional expression in each is just as deep and distinctive. However, I have only ever exhibited one. It was a couple of years ago, at an exhibition of a series of 15 voodoo-inspired watercolours, entitled Venus In Hell, at the Melbourne Art Rooms and despite a couple of offers, it was not for sale. For the time being, my altars are just for me.