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Visual Paradise: The Biennale (A Photo Essay)

Roxy Paine’s large, scientifically inspired sculpture embraces the entryway of the Museum of Contemporary Art for this year’s Biennale. Depicting neurological patterns and evolutional growth in a way that is hauntingly captivating, “Neuron” is a reflection of the body’s vast interconnectivity and the way it latches onto individual knowledge and experience and spreads it throughout the system. It is testament to the theory that human design must have been created with the utmost intelligence.

Religious sacrifice has been channeled into Angela Ellsworth’s “Seer Bonnets: A Continuing Offence”, a series of delicate and intricately constructed pieces that stand as a memorial to Angela’s rejected Mormon upbringing. Made out of thousands of pearl-tipped corsage pins with needles lining the insides of the pieces, the bonnets are metaphors for the innate beauty of women and the ultimate suffering they have to endure by ensuring they and the world around them remains proper, tidy and attractive. The exquisite, torturous pieces are monuments to the lives of countless women who were never given the control over their own happiness or destiny.

“Cell (Glass, spheres and hands)” is an installation that once again reflects artist Louise Bourgeois’ fascination with personal memory and emotion. A pair of clasped marble hands rest upon a table in a room full of glass bubbles sitting atop wooden chairs. While much of its true meaning is left up to the viewer, there is an unsettling feeling of alienation, remoteness and loneliness when viewing the work, which suggests the inner turmoil of disconnection and the human reliance on communication and social relationships.

Science, philosophy and spirituality are all present within Angela Su’s drawings, which bring together ancient imagery with portrayals of anatomy and other evolutionary systems. The highly detailed and exceptionally illustrated series reflects upon nature and knowledge and comments on the interconnectivity between native elements and emotions within the world at large – and the disorder that can ensue when when just one pattern is interrupted.

The lifelike paintings by Gunnel Wåhlstrand are, observably, modeled upon her old family photographs. Working predominantly in ink wash, she has used her art as a means to return to traumatic and critical moments of her past. In “The Desk” (above), Gunnel has depicted her father, who committed suicide when she was young, as a boy. Striking to look at, the personal emotion that has gone into Gunnel’s works make them all the more beautifully intense.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s sculptural installation, “Inopportune: Stage One”, presents a challenging and spectacular work of extraordinary beauty. Six identical white vehicles appear arrested in a sequence of explosion: tumbling, launching and blasting through gravitational return. Pierced with rods of light penetrating like blades that simultaneously suspend the vehicles like wings, the monumental work signifies the coexistence and parallels of beauty and violence.

Blazoning landscape and gardening terminologies that he has seen on his travels across Australia, the awe-inspiring “Chitters: A Wheelbarrow for Richard, 156 Paintings, 156 Signs” by Australian artist Robert MacPherson consecrates the roadside vernacular of shop signs, placards and slang expressions by celebrating, in the artist’s own words, “a beautiful poetry in this, the constant repainting of signs and their textural effects, …an unselfconsciousness in the use of paint often lost in so called high art”.

Depicting a famous scene from Petronius’s Satyricon, Russian collective AES+F’s nine-channel animation “The Feast of Trimalchio” touches on worldly issues reflecting the contemporary state of both Russia and the rest of the globe. This panoramic installation of over 75,000 photographs immerses its audience into a world of sumptuous colour and symphonic composition, intertwining imagery of popular culture, youth obsession and an orgy of consumerism.

Bridging the gap between cinema and fine art and premiering at the Biennale of Sydney, Issac Julien’s video installation, “Ten Thousand Waves”, brings poetic and artistic consideration of globalisation and the motivations of need and desire that drive people to endure journeys of hardship in order to achieve a better life. Entwining legend with modern China and inspired by the tragic deaths of illegal Chinese migrant workers who drowned in England in 2004, Julien’s nine-screen installation uses the image of water as a symbol for danger, trade, modernity, mystery and economic power.

In his series of gouache and pencil drawings, conceptual artist Aleks Danko presents a delicate mediation of selfhood in honour of his parents’ cultural traditions. His ongoing work, “SOME CULTURAL MEDIATIONS 1949-2010”, places particular focus on his family’s Ukranian history, including a traditional Ukrainian symbol that played an important part in the ceremonies of birth, marriage and death. Each of the captioned titles reference traditional Russian and Ukranian folk songs set on the backdrop of a soundtrack of seven traditional songs played by the Soviet Red Army Chorus and Band.

photos: Lisa Zhu
words: Seema Duggal & Jacinda Fermanis


May 12, 2010 at 1:50 PM Laura said...

yay! im excited to go see all this stuff!

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