Art is a powerful means of expression. Among its many abilities, it can enthral, delight, puzzle, confuse, evoke feelings, provoke reactions, entice, suggest, and tell stories. It can also be a vehicle by which life – either as a whole or just that of the artist – can be reflected, examined, quantified, dissected, displayed, and offered for commentary, be it by the audience witnessing it, or (again) by the artist.
Thus, both its production and in its viewing, art can be cathartic for artist and audience alike, and this is certainly true for two small but utterly engaging exhibitions I’ve visited over the last couple of days.
The first is by Traci Ultsch, an artist who has only relatively recently started exhibiting her art in Second Life (her first in-world exhibition being in November 2020), but is who has more than demonstrated that she is an artist who can both evoke and provoke through her work in the most compelling of ways and with a richness of narrative. These traits are fully on display at Mareea Farrasco’s IMAGOLand art spaces, which is currently hosting Overdose by Traci.
A small collection of five large-format pieces that offer a double-dive into matters of addiction which are presented in such a way that both their design and their presentation to have much to say about the subject.
I say double-dive because, as Traci notes in her introduction to Overdose, this is an exhibition that can be viewed in two ways:
The first view is a personal one looking at my past experiences with drugs and drug use. Each image dealing with a drug I’ve been involved with. Heroin, LSD and amphetamines. Which directly led to several overdoses and the problems following that.
Another view deals more with the overdose of general life itself and the pressures that can lead to the need for escape.
Whether one takes the first or second of these interpretations, there is no doubt that the images presented in Overdose exhibit a raw, loud power that is reflective of both the often skewed view of reality and self that drugs can induce, together with the highs (e.g. sense of Godhood / power, moments of starling clarity) and lows (loss of self, blurring of reality and the unreal, paranoia and withdrawal), and the cacophony of life that seems to increasingly haul us towards an all-or-nothing series of extremes, from the constant outpouring of streamed television through to the demands of skewed politics, religion and more that demand everything be measured in terms of being either “for” or “against”, to the ever widening social gaps between classes. and so on.
Placed within a confined space, even the size of the pictures speak to the pressures of being constantly immersed / unable to escape no matter where we turn. They are, in short overwhelming – as can be the allure of drugs and/or the demands of life; whilst the hospital beds floating in the air offer a further statement on both aspects of Overdose and its meaning.
Often when it comes to art, Retrospective is used in terms of presenting a selection of past works that speak to the artist’s life and work to date. However, for her exhibition that is currently taking place in Dido’s space at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, Sina Souza uses the term and the pieces she is exhibiting to present a personal statement in a similar vein as might be seen within Traci’s – stories of personal struggles – as Sina similarly explains in introducing the exhibit:
[This] is an exhibition about struggles in my past, wrong decisions that I have made or experiences that I have gained.
It is a path between depression, strokes of fate and the problem of trusting others. But it’s not just a look back at what’s behind me, it is also a kind of self reflection, a step forward, a way to learn from mistakes and to grow from experiences. Sometimes we need to look back to look ahead.
Thus we have personal, but again compelling pieces, the majority of which are presented in black-and-white, but all of which have a story contained within it – be it a message about the benefits of thinking outside of the box in whatever situation we find ourselves in, through to the weight of time that can often drag at us.
Richly evocative, powerful in narrative and deeply personal, these are two exhibitions in which the artists expose as much of themselves as they do their work. As such they are both deserving of being seen.