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Three Sydney artists come to Ilam

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Francesca Heinz, Five Horse Arses, 2013, Latex, hair, cotton.  Dimensions variable. In foreground, Ben Terakes, See Saw, 2013, Cinder block, wood. Polyurethane foam, spray paint, air drying clay, dimensions variable. Installation of Milksop at Ilam Campus Gallery Ben Tarakes, Pogo the Clown After Mike Kelley After John Wayne Gacy, 2013, Contact thread on canvas, 310 x 270mm Installation of Milksop at Ilam Campus Gallery Eloise Kirk, Palimpsest, 2013, found image, binder linen

Based on the premise that these horses are trapped in the gallery wall with their tail ends as the subject of the gallery visitor's attention, Heinz undermines the ideology of trophy sculpture as an arts practice that encompasses objects of victory, worthy of due attention and even credible art-making. This work is overtly surreal and amusing, yet equally unsettling, with the instinctive threat of being kicked from behind, implicit in the act of viewing.

Christchurch

 

Francesca Heinz, Eloise Kirk and Ben Terakes
Milksop

 

2 October - 25 October 2013

In a series of colourful and ‘playful’ objects and images, Milksop coolly, but comprehensively, undermines its title. Certainly, works by three Sydney-based artists Francesca Heinz, Eloise Kirk and Ben Tarakes give the initial impression of being childlike and tongue-in-cheek. Milksop looks like a mischievous sculptural environment and installation - brightly coloured cherries, horses that have somehow got themselves stuck and trapped in the gallery walls, a make-shift seesaw assembled from a wooden plank, and sewn cotton canvases that could have been made by children in a first-year home economics class.

Yet, there is a knowingness about Milksop that is almost gleeful in its understanding of how images and objects can act to orchestrate and reconcile contrary ideas and experiences. It might seem like an exhibition created by children, but it is not for children. In Milksop, the delightful and the innocent are partners in crime for something far more perverse and disturbing. The black phallus in Ben Terake’ Seesaw, standing erect beside the wooden seesaw plank takes pleasure in its insinuations of sex in the playground, and the girly-platted horses’ tails in Francesca Heinz’s Five Horse Arses, simultaneously touches on a youthful obsession with the care and attention given to animals and pets, and the perversity and gratification of fetish behavior and bestiality. (The accompanying catalogue essay by Sydney-based artist and writer Sach Catts is a challenge. It’s an insightful and readable text -yet it provides more information on deviant behavior than most people would wish to know).

Heinz’ Five Horse Arses exemplifies the exhibition’s ability to effortlessly shift between innocence and knowing. Based on the premise that these horses are trapped in the gallery wall with their tail ends as the subject of the gallery visitor’s attention, Heinz undermines the ideology of trophy sculpture as an arts practice that encompasses objects of victory, worthy of due attention and even credible art-making. This work is overtly surreal and amusing, yet equally unsettling, with the instinctive threat of being kicked from behind, implicit in the act of viewing.

This deceit of responding innocently to the pretence of welcome that informs Milksop is equally fundamental to Terakes’ art. It is evident in Seesaw in the artist’s attention to colour and surfaces and its implication of sexual activity as an act of intuitive engagement and intuitive detachment. More disturbing however, is Terakes’ Pogo The Clown After Mike Kelley After John Wayne Gacy, a hand-stitched canvases described by Catts as an image based on a painting by serial killer and rapist John Wayne Gacy of a character that the murderer had assumed at public events and children’s parties prior to his capture.

Eloise Kirk’s work seems to represent an impressive series of resolved formalist images based upon the imagery of a turban. Kirk isolates the object in each work in an indeterminate space, serving to further the premise that these collaged works are connected to the aesthetics and practice of European modernism. Yet, she also undermines the very idea of this reality and the accompanying values of internationalism as something informative and enlightening, perceived to contribute to human wellbeing. Rather her turbans (as familiar objects and symbols of the Middle Eastern) touch on the absence of comprehension throughout the Western world about the Middle East, perpetually reading it as ‘other.’

Kirk - like Heinz and Terakes - set up a visual game and puzzle with the viewer - a playfulness and/or a fantasy of misinformation that is ultimately tested and sabotaged. The more transparent and inviting Milksop appears to be, the more curious and disturbing are its rewards as it obliquely and directly confronts Western culture and all our actions and behaviours.

Warren Feeney

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This Discussion has 2 comments.

Comment

Francesca Heinz, 8:16 p.m. 18 October, 2013

I feel it pertinent to mention that I am a proud New Zealander.

 In reply

John Hurrell, 8:57 p.m. 18 October, 2013

Oops, thanks for that (very necessary) correction, Francesca. I'd better rethink the heading.

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