Thursday, August 9, 2012

The room of many colours

If you walk away from the ferries, up the big front steps of the MCA and turn left, you will find yourself in an airy gallery with a feast of colour.

Tacked onto two walls are hundreds of spools of cotton, large ones like those on an industrial over-locker. Some tail end of threads trail into the air and flutter under the air-con breeze, but most extended out and away from the wall to stay fixed to garments piled on a table. There you can see everything from delicate crochets shawls to leather miniskirts and teddy bears.

This is the Mending Project by Lee Mingwei (Korea) in which visitors bring their clothes with tears, runs and holes and leave them to be mended. They will live in a pile on a trestle table until the end of the festival when owners  are notified by email to collect their items.
The installation has been staffed over the months of the Biennale by ten stitchers – mostly art and design students – who, true to the Lee Mingwei’s philosophy of celebrating the repair rather than hiding it as would a tailor, make their mendings more than just visible, but a feature of the garment.

Three large canvases by David Aspden hang on adjacent walls. Still feeling the warmth of the Mending Project led me to take in these huge oil paintings of red and yellow hues, throwing light and bright colour out into the room. Reminiscent of works by John Olsen it conjured up notions of deserts, horizons and blissful isolation.

It was a shock then to read the title of one piece: Mururoa. Painted in 1973, seven years after the first French nuclear test on the Pacific atoll, the reds and amber colours to me became bloodied. The splashes of blue became obscured, poisoned glimpses of a once-pristine ocean.

Knowing the subject of the work completely changed my attitude towards it. The happy room of many colours momentarily took on a darker feeling.

Not for long though.The prevailing ambiance was definitely light.

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