Tuesday, September 09, 2008

As A Girl, Left Half Done

I continue to add old works to my site. As I do, I have a chance to review ideas that I haven't thought about for a very long time – or, in some cases, have forgotten completely.
I've tended to dismiss a lot of my early work. My first shows were at a very commercial, parochial gallery where ideas were often regarded as unimportant. I was young and not particularly street-smart so having the underlying concepts of my work overlooked or ignored in favour of their 'decorativeness' shook my confidence. I developed ideas then in the same way I do now – through meticulous research, note-taking and visual experimentation – but I began to wonder whether I was wasting my time and effort. I began to doubt whether ideas in an artwork were even visible to anyone.
Some of these old works are still interesting conceptually. For example, there's a series of small (50cm x 100cm) enamel paintings, titled Accoutrements Of Desire, that I started in a flurry of excitement but stopped in a petty fit of resentment at my dealer, whose only comment about them was that maybe they should be pitched at a different (read, lower) price point. As a result, the series is incomplete.
Initially, I wanted to tell an abstract story of desire, restraint, and sexuality as a weapon everyone 'carried' either overtly or concealed. I spent weeks in the Queensland State Library, reading about weapons disguised as feminine accessories – daggers disguised as fans or fans made of thin, sharpened metal foils that could slash a man's throat (the metaphor of coquettish seduction as a deadly tool was hard to ignore). I found diagrams and designs that described how weapons functioned, some of which I appropriated for my paintings straight from catalogues I found at a local gun shop. They resembled the cut-away illustrations of sex organs one sees in gynaecologists' or urologists' consulting rooms.
Of course, Accoutrements Of Desire included items other than weapons. I was fascinated by the history of foot binding, and of so-called 'lotus shoes', as well as the status-inspired, erotic rituals and fetsihistic sex they inspired. This led me to sexualised
Western instruments of restraint, such as police handcuffs.
I don't know when I will get around to working on this series again but I will. There's too much that's at once curious and discomforting within its still undeveloped concepts of corrupted consumerism, sexual deviancy, gender-based domination and control, and constrained violence to leave it – how should I put this? – half-cocked.

No comments: