Annie Bradley

BABY

BABY

BABY

O BABY

// Thurs. 15/09 – Sat. 01/10, 2011

// Opening 6pm Wed. 14/09

Text in response to the work by Julia Waite:

In 1947 Gordon Walters visited Theo Schoon in South Canterbury. Schoon was busy working for the Department of Internal Affairs photographing and making copies of rock drawings. Both men were impressed by the rock artist’s economy of means and inspired by the organic quality of the drawings they saw.

Like Walters and Schoon, Bradley seems to have ventured into a ‘cave’ and returned with a series of artefacts – hers address the intersection of fine arts with craft, the gallery with domestic space, the everyday and public with the private and personal. Baby Baby Baby, Oh Baby fuses elements of Walters’s abstract modernism with Schoon’s more craft-based practice while considering the effects of relationships in the art world. And Bradley’s personal is not just political – it’s professional.

To explore these themes the artist hoes into past experiences. The exhibition includes handmade artefacts and paper ‘records’. Clay forms sit atop a makeshift table like an archaeologist’s recent, uncatalogued findings, ready for investigation. A koru pattern is recorded in a series of rubbings onto paper, a technique often employed in archaeological research. These ‘dug up’ relics, a mix of clay and porcelain in various shapes and sizes, can be taxonomically organised into three main groups. The first, thin tablets of clay impressed with the repeated koru pattern; the second a cluster of tight balls; and the third, a collection of irregularly shaped forms, which recall the pieces of textured limestone Schoon photographed.

There is evidence of personal encounters in this tableau of mutating artefacts. Using emergency contraceptive pill packaging Bradley manipulates Walters’s benign koru pattern motif and suggests the art world’s layers of connection and the uneasy relationships between biology and culture, art and the body.

What controls us but cannot be seen – hormones and genetics, the repetition of life – fascinates Bradley. The crisp elegance of the ECP koru pattern, which subtly spreads across all the elements, contrasts with the irregular and organically shaped ceramics. The insidiousness of these ‘biological’ controls is accentuated by the partial breakdown of Walters’s koru motif, which itself might be seen to contain undertones of obsession and monotony.

Bite marks and lines of severance disrupt the surfaces of each unique ceramic ball, challenging the seemingly serious nature of the work and any of clay’s gentler associations. The title of the exhibition, a lyric from The Carpenters’ ballad Superstar, adds to the drollness of the work. And this choice of title – of theme song – accentuates the intersection of the public and the private. Here art world heavy weights Schoon and Walters collide with the heart broken Karen Carpenter.

While Baby Baby Baby, Oh Baby appears to hold evidence of the excavation of experience and memory, the opposite has really occurred: Bradley’s buried personal encounters in metaphor and art history.

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