Review/Visual Art

Beauty and the bathroom

19 October 2017

Review: Within Touching Distance, Mardi Crocker ◆
Spectrum Project Space ◆
Review by Jenny Scott ◆

‘Within Touching Distance’ is  a collection of strangely compelling works depicting the mundane bathroom spaces and objects with which we are regularly intimate, but rarely think about. Pictured: Mardi Crocker, ‘Bathox’, 2017, oil on board, 40.5 x 30.5cm.

The fine details of everyday items are beautifully rendered by Mardi Crocker in the still life paintings of “Within Touching Distance”, her thoughtful solo exhibition at Spectrum Project Space.

Crocker’s oil paintings, which will be submitted as part of her PhD examination in 2018, present scenes of body products arranged in bathroom corners; Perfect Whip shows various containers resting in formation at the edge of a shower, Sukin depicts a lone pump bottle balancing on the grooves of a bath rim, and QV offers a large jug of cleanser sitting on the floor of a tub. The result is a collection of strangely compelling works depicting the mundane bathroom spaces and objects with which we are regularly intimate, but rarely think about.

Despite utilising the traditionally highbrow genre of oil painting, Crocker does not valorise her depicted products, and the cumulative effect of this exhibition is far from a magazine-spread showcase of a display bathroom. Instead, Crocker is interested in the objects as existing within what she describes as our “bodily orbit”, where “everything is within reach, arranged to be touched and felt for without looking”. Her paintings encourage us to look at the private spaces of the bathroom – the recesses of the shower, the bottom of the bath – and thus to consider the zones in which we normally act on autopilot, interacting with objects in a purely bodily manner.

Crocker is interested in the objects as existing within what she describes as our “bodily orbit”, where “everything is within reach, arranged to be touched and felt for without looking”. ‘QV’, 2017, oil on board, 61 x 45.5cm.

While the products are instantly recognisable, the curved background landscapes of the bathroom seem to become less familiar the longer you look – perhaps the effect of paying singular attention to, and really noticing, the spaces that we use regularly but seldom consider. Unlike the timeless bottles of Giorgio Morandi, Crocker has painstakingly painted in the labels on her products, which anchors her paintings to the present day. This specificity is further encouraged by the titles of Crocker’s works, which are taken from the brand names of her depicted products.

With only six paintings in this minimalist show, the artworks are arranged within the gallery space in the same deliberate manner as the composition of the still life scenes. Much like the content of the paintings, the curation of this exhibition encourages the viewer to become aware of how they physically negotiate certain spaces and the objects encountered within.

“Within Touching Distance” runs until 21 October 2017.

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Author —
Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and has spent the past ten years working and volunteering in the arts sector on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. She has fond memories of the dangerous thrill of the playground roundabout.

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