I would like to round off my commentary on the December round of the UWA 3D Art Competition somewhat belatedly by making a few remarks about several random pieces which I photographed with the intention of writing about, but never quite got to. I am sorry if this is distracting at all from the rapid cumulation of January works, as that is not my intention. I have had a tough few days in two worlds since Sunday, and even now I am not much in a frame of mind to write, but perhaps it will be therapeutic.
Perhaps the piece which I spent the most time with apart from the addictive Falling Cubes / Light Tower was, surprisingly perhaps because of its simplicity in regard to viewer interaction, Blue Tsuki’s mirror mirror. I sneaked onto the platform during quiet periods many times during the month to simply kneel on the chair and be entranced by the continual flutter of gold just in front of my eyes as I reached towards the tantalising flurry of… leaves… butterflies… hands… Just what was it that I was gazing at with such reverie? Fortunately the velvet of the chair was soft to my knees, the old wooden back rail smooth and comforting in my hands as I steadied myself, the chair teetering precariously and yet I felt secure, the entrancing mirror holding me against the force of gravity itself. Then, I had to remind myself that this is a mirror… somehow, I was looking at a reflection of myself… I am not vain enough to chant the old lines which must have inspired Tsuki-san and expect the time-worn response, “You… are the fairest of them all”. But what is Tsuki-san’s purpose here but, perhaps, to give each viewer that very experience. As we gaze into the mirror, entranced by the fluttering gold, are we permitted to think that the mirror is revealing the true beauty in each one of us, no matter who it may be, whatever aged crone, grotesque other-world monster or barbaric blood-stained warrior might tarry to perch there a moment. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as we behold ourselves on this magical chair, reflected ever in this wondrous mirror, we may behold the best of ourselves. No need for us to send for the woodcutter to take a young princess into the forest for an awful fate – this mirror, mirror on the wall will declare even the most wicked queen to be the fairest in the land.
As an Australian at this time, I hesitate to tackle anything addressing the subject of rain, since much of our country is experiencing the most awful rain, flooding and loss of life from those events than has been seen for decades… notwithstanding that the part where UWA is located continues in interminable drought. But Cherry Manga’s Il pleut sur mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville seized my attention the moment I saw it, and the fact that it ended up taking out the major prize was no surprise to me. This work is very personal for me just now… I have a massive cold front coursing through my heart, bringing torrential downpours of tears at times (eased to scattered showers, I must say, by some caring friends). This was not so when I first saw this work, but my writing about it now makes it so extremely real. The title of the work suggests that Ms Manga has in mind for us to think firstly of a real rainstorm in town, but it is a metaphor. (I’m pretty good at stating the obvious!) The deepest blackness of the rain, the continual chilling, penetrating deluge, happens in our hearts, pouring in a torrent from the dark clouds of our windswept emotions. The viewer may take some time, as I did, for it to dawn into one’s consciousness that the rain is falling only from under the umbrellas… that those which are meant to shelter us from the storm are in fact the least protection, and the source of our drenching. This is a chilling and awful message, though again one which is all too real for me. And the tree also weeps great tears… for these are not mere raindrops which fall, but surely here I see a symbol of those friends of whom I spoke, steady and reassuring brightness in a dark landscape, and yet weeping with me for my sorrow. Ms Manga did this work for me personally and for this moment in time… or so it seems, though of course a truly wonderful artwork has the capacity to speak with many voices to many contexts.
Whether one sees the Bible as a religious work or simply a great work of literature, a knowledge of it is essential to understanding great swathes of Western art and literature. ChapTer Kronfeld’s Last Supper Defiguratives takes one of the great events of the Bible – if you don’t know which one, go here (where there is also a picture of one of the most well known artistic renderings of this subject) – and gives an apparently quite orthodox interpretation in a very novel medium. I am struggling to determine the significance of Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples represented as nails, but the key figures in the drama are immediately identifiable. Jesus, in Christian teaching the perfect son of God and the only straight nail in that upper room, shines in royal and divine gold at the centre of the rough wooden table, while his struggling disciples sit at this last supper with him, bent and bowed by the solemnity of the occasion and by the weight of their own sins and frailties. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, stumbles from the room to do his filthy work, the noose with which he will later hang himself already trailing from his neck. The fact that Judas is represented as the only black nail must not be interpreted in racial terms – there is no tradition that Judas was physically black and I have no thought that the artist is suggesting this; the black colour here is used simply to define the evil in Judas’s treacherous actions. Now, Kronfeld has purposely used the term ‘defigurative’ to describe his work, and unless this is an artistic term* it would appear to be synonymous with the verb to disfigure. If this is the artist’s intention, we must note again the bent and misshapen form of all of the disciples, Jesus alone being not disfigured, and so I, perhaps superficially, am led to the conclusion that Kronfeld intends an orthodox view of the Last Supper in his work. From his artist notes, Kronfeld is firstly a painter, so it is wonderful to see his skills in 3D art displayed in this work. In his notes, also, the artist calls for “the soul” to be engaged in the artistic process, and one senses that the Last Supper is not merely a literary story for him.
*Note also the use of the term in regard to an understanding of modern dance, as discussed here.
ChapTer Kronfeld Last Supper Defiguratives (detail, Judas and Jesus)
Sabrinaa Nightfire’s Stage 4 deals with so serious a subject that I am hesitant to offer an appreciation of it, but I have had both recent and current experience of people I know well being diagnosed and, in more than one case, being taken away by the awful illness of cancer. The artist does not say so in her notes, but I am not surprised to read in Jayjay’s commentary her own words that confirm what one suspects – this is drawn from the artist’s personal experience. The picture is somber and terrifying. The full range of physical symptoms, anger, frustration, fear and despair are conveyed dramatically in the word-bites chosen, and represented in angry red. The sufferer has Stage 4 of the cancer, one assumes one of the final stages; but the stage-motif goes deeper, as seen by the plinth-like formation of the work. The cancer patient is a performer, very vulnerable and seemingly alone, a solo act on the stage of life observed, too often at a discreet distance, by so many. This work is a cry for us to get on the stage ourselves, to join the soloist, to enter their drama and their suffering, to cry with them, to live with them and make their performance at least a duet if not a full, amazing opera chorus complete with curtain call and thunderous applause from a sympathetic and engaged audience. We all pray and hope that we will never be diagnosed with cancer, but if we are may it be that we are joined on stage by those who love us. And in conclusion to this piece, my main thought is of course to wish Sabrinaa all that she needs and hopes for as she likely continues to face her illness in the first world. This has to be one of the bravest artworks we are likely to ever see entered.
Sabrinaa Nightfire Stage 4
I must add a footnote that the first three paragraphs of this post were written over 24 hours before I posted, and that my mood had changed hugely by the time I posted; but my reading of the first two works still stand as how I was reading them at the time of writing. An interesting exercise, perhaps, in how our view of a work will be critically impacted by our own life circumstances, and may change as those circumstances change.