Dec 6, 2014

SAWTOOTH REVIEW #18


Sentimental Blokes
Shannon Field (TAS)
28 November - 20 December 2014
Middle Gallery, Sawtooth ARI
Review by: Luke Wren Reid

Photograph by Mel de Ruyter 

I was asked once by a Kung Fu teacher in my first ever class what the words Kung Fu meant.  I imagined flying enchanted swords and magical punches that could shatter rock.  The teacher looked at me rather wryly and said. “It means hard work”.

I hate the word review, especially when it relates to art.  Because art is not glamorous, it is not the sum total of what you see in a gallery, nor should it ever be considered so.  Real art is hard work.  It is lived work.  Not a peanut in the corner of a white room with a university approved justification as to why it matters.  Art is not good grades nor is it good reviews or even praise.  It is the hard work of the artists pregnant with horror, chaos and great beauty birthing anew the world in which they exist.

I normally walk through galleries like some lost guest in a hotel who has chanced on some strangers wedding and in the excitement been overlooked long enough to get some free booze and a canapé. 

I did however stop to contemplate for sometime the installation of Shannon Field.  I even skimmed through the piece of paper on the wall.

What struck me were the group of crude little men with erect wooden cocks, multicoloured legs and infantile eyeballs buried under their primitive painted skulls. 

He had invoked the wickedness and sincerity of anglo men marching in circles stitching together a collage of patriotism and homesickness; with some long lost sense of purpose, of escape.  I saw the words man and convict, violence, Tasmania.  I have seen these men, I see them every day, babies who have built bodies around some post colonial wound.  Hidden. 

I am very much a product of my Tasmanian heritage, the displacement, the anger and the isolation.  I wondered if the naïve eyes poking out of these primordial skulls were as much a metaphor for the power of unrealised immature men to cause suffering.  As it was for the convicts hiding from a brutal past.  We never escape the carapace of injustice until we ourselves are put on trial.  The sentence is the Kung Fu, the hard work undergone by the artist.

Never resolved until babe is cut from it’s false history and made to grow into a product of inclusion in it’s future.

I don’t endeavour to comment on the good or bad of the work.  If I liked it or not.  But I like contemplation, and these strange devils made me think.