‘Magic Mountain’ curated by Debbie Pryor, at Craft Victoria
Kylie Banyard, Georgia Perry, Sarah CrowEST, Terry Williams
January 17 – March 2, 2013
A teepee, a wigwam and a yert walk into an amusement park. ‘Pitch your jokes elsewhere,’ cried the ringmaster, as he receded into a hall of mirrors. Oh art! You ridiculously delicious thing you.
Craft curator Debbie Pryor has put together a wonderful show, full of humour, fantasy, hope and design concerns. Each artist was given a structure with which to work (the aforementioned teepee-, wigwam-, yert-like forms) and the offcuts from the panels were given over to Georgia Perry to build an entrance to the exhibition. This faceted archway is a portal that builds a sense of anticipation. The abstract patterning plays off the chrystalline form, disorienting and exhilarating by equal measure. The bare-boned unfinished backing of the archway, revealed after your entrance into the gallery, declares itself as facade, the power directed to those yet to be received into the space. Once in, well, you’re in. Move on!
And then it’s the eyes. The watchful, captivating eyes. Inside the first structure a black lump sits atop an oak box, like a general at rest after a hard day’s march across new lands. Its eyes peering intently at anyone looking in, somehow both disconcerting and inviting. The tent is a swathe of cloth – as if creamy swirls of frosted icing sugar on a cupcake. Cloud-like lumps mill about the base – as if ice cream scoops. There’s an air of fantasy, of Japanese anime coming to life. Sarah brings the structure to life as a place of congress. A cushion sits in the centre for your audience with the eyes while the subordinate ice cream clouds waft about like minions or courtiers.
The second structure is a monument to utopian ideas. The faceted form is connected, through paintings, to Bucky Fuller’s geodesic domes and the optimism that his ideas spawned in communes that sprung up in the 60s and 70s. Kylie applies an architectural twist through the inclusion of a painting of a tudor (mock-tudor) house inside the structure. The planar forms of the house growing and expanding like cell-division. A dream machine offers the chance to close your eyes and witness hallucinogenic patterns forming in your mind. U2’s Joshua Tree spins on the turntable, evoking desert trips on LSD filtered through commercial FM radio. The collapse of the commune utopian dream marinates the structure in a sad deflation of dreams that have failed. And yet its crisply fresh colours, its sharp lines and knowing referential angles keep hope alive.
Finally, Terry’s structure sits like a sparkling gem at the end. The painted abstractions on the panels are not far from stained glass windows and I’m half hoping they’ll be saved as individual paintings after the show. They’re captivating. There’s a procession of miniature transport vehicles coming and going from the structure’s entrance – boats, cars, scooters and a soft-sculpture train. There’s a playfulness that is amplified by the objects inside – soft-sculpture domestic objects like a book, a guitar, binoculars, a coffee machine and teapots. Everything is stitched-together fabric off-cuts, a frankenstein homage to recycled parts. The fridge is amazing, complete with operational door and a freezer tray that folds out. A dark edge ripples through the space, like a flickering shadow, as you realise the objects in this space are perfectly befitting of a survivalist’s refuge. This is the last safe-haven for a post-apocalyptic event. Just what are those miniature cars and trucks and boats and trains carrying in and out of here? Hope and despair?
The three enclosed structures represent distinct voices channeled through equivalent devices. Enframed by the mood set by the archway, the show is choreographic in nature and beautifully weighted. As you go back through the gallery again on the way out, the cross-references begin to fire between the works. If Terry is post-apocalyptic survivalist, is he the consequence of Kylie’s utopian ideals collapsed into chaos? If Sarah is all conquering fantasy, is her lumpen black general the residue of Hollywood entertainment commandeering imagination? If exhibitions are portals of space and time, can an art-fan get sucked into his own blackhole?