Quan Lavender invited me to the opening of two new exhibitions at the Art India Gallery on Wednesday August 14th. Together, they make interesting companions – and a strong juxtaposition of images and emotions.
“The sculptures of Chuckmatrix Clip always had a strong dark side for me,” Quan opens her introduction to the first of the pieces, Inner Prisons by Chuckmatrix Clip. “About 6 months ago I asked him if he would like to exhibit at Art India Gallery and to concentrate on this dark side. Luckily he agreed.”
The result is something of an autobiographical exhibit which, I understand, has it roots in a piece Chuckmatrix submitted to the UWA, one that touched upon his own struggle with mental illness.
Inner Prisons takes this a stage further, presenting a series of sculptures which vividly – and with the help of the accompanying soundtrack – very emotively capture the struggles he, and others with the same affliction, face in dealing with the demons inside their minds.
Staged within the confines of a set representing an asylum, the sculptures are mixed with a series of pictures which provide insight into the many factors which can contribute to the unsettling of the mind from childhood through to adulthood, and which can so easily leave a person isolated, feeling unloved, alone, and with little more than self-loathing and fear for company.
It is a series of dark vignettes which one does not often see identified as art, much less put together in an open exhibition like this. It’s also a very moving experience as well – as Quan says in her notes, this is an emotional bearing of a man’s soul, and intensely powerful one at that.
And the fact that it is, is also why Inner Prisons carries an underlying message of hope in the final piece. Fears can be controlled; inner demons can be exorcised. It takes time, it takes help, it takes a willingness for people to understand – but it can be done. One can be brought back from the edge of despair and a contemplation of suicide to face one’s darkest thoughts and, if not be rid of them entirely, be able to sublimate and dispel them; all it takes is a simple trigger to start the entire process. For Chuckmatrix, that trigger came in the form of a small white teddy bear, the focus of the final sculpture.
While it may have been a long, painful road from where he was when that bear re-entered his life towhere he is today, Chuckmatrix nevertheless stands a proof – to use his own words – that “no matter how far you fall, there is always a way back up”.
Pictures alone do not do this work justice. It needs to be experienced.
Of his own piece, Escapes, Dan Freehand says:
My work shown in SL manipulates and abstracts pornographic imagery. Porn is generally not treated as art, yet it is part of our visual language. Porn as an escape for some, an anathema for others, but to simply dismiss it or hide it under the bed denies us the ability to understand something about who we are. I look for the art in it.
His pieces are a vivid contrast to Chuckmatrix’s work. Here we have vivid colours and shapes, all drawn from the naked human form, female and male, but not exactly in a manner which is NSFW. The images have been abstracted (some, admittedly a lot more than others), some have been given motion, scrolling slowly across the canvas in a series of hypnotic and ever-changing patterns. All are exhibited in a more “usual” gallery-style environment.
The contrast between the two exhibits couldn’t be stronger. Where Inner Prisons is stark, dark and disturbing, Escapes is initially loud, proud, and bold. Escapes is also much smaller in scale and setting than Inner Prisons, which also makes it perhaps more intimate.
There an initial subtext here as well which tends to get the mind boggling a bit, and I’ll be curious to know what conversations may well come out of it. Here were have images deliberately focused on pornography on display in a virtual environment which is, in the eyes of the world, some kind of hub for pornography and sexual encounters. Yet the images are themselves, through the very nature of being abstract, demure and devoid of the in-you-face attitude people associate with pornography.
There is also something else in Escapes, however; something Quan picked-up on herself in her notes as curator of both exhibits. Whereas Inner Prisons is stark and unsettling, it nevertheless carries a message of hope. By contrast Escapes, because it is based on the pornography business which can be dark and ugly, may well be bright and alluring to look at, but it perhaps carries a darker and more uncomfortable subtext.
Which is not to say it should be avoided – both exhibits make compelling sets and are equally deserving of an audience. You can catch both of them now through until September 29th.