I have reached the end of my holiday, I am quite rested and ready to get back into it. I saw an exhibition on Friday at the Katoomba cultural centre featuring Adrienne Doig with a friend as we were heading to get lunch. My friend was saying that Joan Ross was a more intellectual version of what was on offer in the show we saw. The work by Doig was humorous but I also felt disappointed at the treatment of the teatowels, there is a piece called ‘Crikey’ with what looks like a vintage teatowel about crocodiles (maybe mid-century modern) and the pastiche of an embroidered character which represents Doig herself as a figure of bemused terror as her character is transported into the tea towels dangerous world.
I thought of the Taliban destroying sacred objects in my own bemused reaction to the teatowel desecration yet it wasn’t all bad. Most of the work will at least get a laugh out of you, you just have to be careful and discreet so you don’t disturb the older crowd huddling around these ‘dangerous’ objects.
I went and had a good look at Joan Ross and felt her work illustrates the privilege of the colonial mindset that Australia is still stuck in. The works themselves on a visual level are pretty safe because they don’t make a jarring commentary. Instead, it is subtle. It is only the titles of the works that have the punch line. In a way, Joan Ross can be safely collected because her works are beautiful and in some ways, her work keeps the colonial mindset alive without meaning to do that.
What I am getting at is you can collect her aesthetically pleasing work without any jarring visual narratives that might wreck your own colonial mindset space. I also had a look at Fiona Lowry’s works in the flesh late last year, they are grand pieces and I feel that they have similar issues, the work can be collected for its epic scale and anti-colonial light aesthetic. I suppose if the works were not subtle they might not be viable enough for intellectual approval.
I am not saying that the artist’s intentions are not genuine, yet I see that approval also anchors around not rocking the boat and keeping things running as smoothly as possible. We can’t sink the boat we are all occupying right?