The Beginning of The End featuring the work of Fiona Roberts and Claire Marsh is a group of works that encapsulates both the grotesque and the surreal. They distort and manipulate the familiar in an effort to convey feelings of anxiety and suffering, as well as metamorphosis or decay. Within many artists there is a desire to test the boundaries of their own experience and see what may be uncovered. With this exhibition we are invited into this exploratory world and we cannot help but to look deeper at ourselves.
Fiona Roberts is an emerging artist based in South Australia. I first came across her work at the The Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition at the beginning of this year. Her work explores the fragility and decay of the human body as well as its limitations. Throughout her work one can identify an exploration of the relationships we have between our minds and our bodies. She explores the sometimes harsh perceptions we can have of ourselves; how we are often detached from the reality of our emotions and our sense of self. This in turn enhances our fears and phobias.
Her work sometimes borders on the grotesque using the human form as a canvas to transmit mood and feeling,
“Knot”, 2012 is about the size of a shoebox and was hiding at the top of the stairs as I entered this exhibition. Looking very much like a small animal that had nestled itself on the gallery floor. It is a mouth surrounded by human hair which twists and winds its way outward from the centre. Each hair has been painstakingly woven individually into what looks to be a wax base. The mouth is open with the teeth and tongue visible. The lips glisten in the light. The whole work is literally a ball of hair which extends and wraps around itself. It is circular in shape and the position of the hair drifting from the centre draw our eye to the gaping mouth. She relies on the texture to create visual interest in the work as well as the realistic structure of the mouth. To me this work evokes feelings of anxiety and tension particularly associated with mental health. I have heard it said that mental health practitioners could be described as combing the knots from the mind. This piece to me represents the power of these thoughts and the pain they can produce. Often it is our negative thoughts that are hardest to overcome.
Claire Marsh is also an emerging Artist with a flair for exploring the frailties of our human form. I wrote about her work earlier this year. She was also in the Helpmann Academy Graduate exhibition; her work explores metamorphosis and the duality of human nature.
“Cloven”, 2012 is a remarkable piece constructed from bee’s wax and kangaroo fur. There are two shoes one is upright and the other laying down displaying the base to the viewer. The base looks very much like the hoof of an animal. The front of the hoof faces the rear of the shoe so that the pointed end is where the wearer’s toe might be positioned. The textural qualities are what attract the eye to this work. Perhaps it is the naturalistic bone colour or the soft appearance of the fur. The work at first reminded me of the surrealist Méret Oppenheim’s fur tea-cup; though only in the way that Claire Marsh has applied the textural qualities to the surface. No, this piece is about transformation and metamorphosis; a theme common to her work. Upon deeper examination we can see a transformation into an animal-like form; for Marsh it is a metaphor for a broken body. Something that once existed in one state has now been shaped and altered into another, and can never be returned. There is a sense of loss but also of rebirth and beauty. Examining “Cloven” in the light of Claire Marsh’s personal experiences; the accident that left her unable to walk and her road to recovery, we are able at once to gain a glimpse into her world. It is a place of exploration and contemplation. Above all; the thing I admire most in Claire’s work is her visual honesty.