Monday, September 21, 2009

In Light Relief

Carnegie Gallery, Hobart
21 August-27 September 2009
Kylie Elizabeth Eastley

An exhibition opening is often not the best time to experience art. Crowds and noise can detract from the work and present problems for those not comfortable with small talk. But the darkened room and subtle lighting at the Carnegie Gallery at the opening of In Light Relief provided an opportunity to see a dramatic collection of works from four of Hobart’s creative minds. It also provided the stage for seeing Sonia Heap’s designs at their best, as a small army of female models mingled and lounged amongst the crowd in her exquisite gowns.

Heap joins jeweller Sandra Wrightson and designers and jewellers Fiona Tabart and Jon Williamson to present a cohesive collection of desirable and evocative works. Dramatic, intense and sensual, the red walls and spot lighting accentuate the individual sculptures and jewellery.

Sonia Heap is a part-time designer who produces exquisite clothing using screen-printed silks and high quality materials that layer and lap across the female form to create erotic contemporary dresses. Gothicism collides with Jane Eyre, as Heap takes the viewer or voyeur into a fantasy world of nymphs and sirens. Cutesy meets macabre in a collection of designs that enhance and hug the models.

Like page 3 girls from a Juztapoz magazine, Heap’s designs are dark, textured and slightly menacing. Influenced by sights, sounds, poems and music, her clothing exudes attitude and flips the relationship between artwork and viewer, creating a sense of unease, discomfort and titillation. While best experienced at the opening, video footage does provide some insight to the drama these pieces create.

In some of her best work, Fiona Tabart (better known for her slumped acrylic jewellery) produces a series of small sculptures exploring home, love and the deeper elements of life. Taking a leaf from Greg Leong’s book, her works are highly decorative and beautiful, but upon closer inspection show a depth and darkness that mimics the reality of life: the sting in the tail. Flocked cages cast shadows on the walls and look luscious and exotic, while smaller free standing sculptures continue the themes of capture with layered etched acrylic and stone. Her work appears to draw inspiration from traditional Asian textiles and wall hangings, while exploring the patterns in nature.

Jon Williamson’s steam punk jewellery and sculptures are well known by many Tasmanians, but the work in this exhibition sees him traverse a world of shadows, light and suspension. An expert in assemblages, Williamson has created mesmerizing spherical puzzles: precise and intricate. Interlocking pieces join together to form decorative orbs and the inclusion of LED lights creates shadows and patterns to fall across walls and ceilings.

Sandy Wrightson’s collection of jewellery sits well with her companions’ pieces. Mirroring natural forms with the white sand-blasted silver, this work also creates shadows and space. The necklaces twist and fall effortlessly creating an elegance and languidness.

This exhibition demonstrates that design and decoration matters. It can be subtle and intricate, complicated and outrageous. It reminds me of the saying ‘the devil is in the detail’. With all these works it is the detail that helps to create the negative space that builds interest and speaks of a darker place. And this makes this work absorbing and very seductive.

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