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Reviews/Visual Art

Intricate and ephemeral

13 March 2019

Review: Ted Snell (curator), “RITUAL” ·
Presented at There is gallery by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

Curated by Ted Snell, “RITUAL” brings together works by 12 of WA’s leading contemporary artists. Touching on the ways in which rituals inform artistic practice as well as the role of ritual in our daily lives, “RITUAL” is a satellite exhibition of Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery and is currently installed at There is, a new gallery in Northbridge. Formerly the Stuart Street Gallery (which closed some years ago), the space is – once again – in use as a gallery, complete with a hole-in-the-wall café.

Art-making itself is a ritual, and the exhibition showcases a range of practices that constitute this ritual. Though varied, the conceptual links within and between the works are strong, exploring the many ritualistic behaviours we undertake throughout our lives; the personal, the public, the religious, the secular, the social, the cultural.

A wall sculpture of a lamb with its feet tied
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, ‘I’ve Been Assured That You’re Going To Heaven My Friend’, 2013, resin and satin, 75 x 38 x 180 cm.

Some works in “RITUAL” investigate the ways in which these acts can be mundane or habitual, even compulsive, such as the repetitious act of mark-making to pass the time. Rebecca Baumann’s Untitled (any moment now) (2018) is a series of small lines on framed pieces of paper, tiny yet delicate imprints made to mark the passing of the hours and days. From farther away they merge together, and it’s only through getting close to the works that the simple marks reveal an intricate yet impeccably orderly tally of the passing of time.

A sculpture of a rocking horse
Olga Cironis, ‘Wild (in my mind)’, 2008, rocking horse covered and stitched with grey blanket and embedded sensors, size variable.

So often a part of our rituals, animals feature heavily in this exhibition, whether the engorged silver cast of the heart of Phar Lap in Anna Louise Richardson’s Wonder Horse and Gift Horse (2019), Abdul-Rahman Abdullah’s beloved childhood lamb in I’ve Been Assured You’re Going to Heaven My Friend (2013) or the echoes of childhood safe spaces that are so often tactile, like the childhood blanket and rocking horse combined in Olga Cironis’s Wild (in my mind) (2008).

Tarryn Gill’s extraordinary installation Belly of the Beast imagines a housecat as a kind of Egyptian sphinx lording it over the moon and sun, the tactility and shapeliness of the figures, as well as the sparkly, velvety materials hinting at the idiosyncrasy of the things we find ourselves worshipping.

Amongst all of these revered and holy creatures, Pilar Matar Dupont’s ghostly, foggy landscape photographs – inspired by a dream of Sigmund Freud’s, in which the ruins of Ancient Rome appear through the landscapes of mountainous forests – reminds me of the animals that crop up throughout Freud’s writings on his patients, most often as representations of our unconscious desires or of our hidden, base natures. Rituals, then, link us to the deeply held parts of ourselves, maintained through repetition, imitation, worship and cultural practices.

Finally, ritual can be ephemeral and inextricably linked to a place. Tom Mùller’s work Spectres (2019) is an installation reflecting the spaces in which rituals unfold, the moments before or after the event. An empty room with disco lights and silence, it feels oddly empty and seedy, like a nightclub during the day, waiting for something to happen.

Ephemeral though these spaces might be, I’m hopeful that There is gallery will stick around, at least for a little while.

“RITUAL” is at There Is Gallery until March 16.

Pictured top is Tarryn Gill, ‘Belly of the Beast’, 2017, mixed media, approx 250 x 600cm.

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Author —
Miranda Johnson

Miranda Johnson is a curator and writer who has worked for various contemporary arts institutions, co-founded Cool Change Contemporary and co-hosts Fem Book Club at the Centre for Stories. Miranda’s favourite aspect of the playground is getting the chance to meet as many dogs as possible.

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