Dark Moments

Tanya Chaitow, Di Holdsworth, Lachlan Warner

4 May - 29 May

In Dark Moments, TANYA CHAITOW, DI HOLDSWORTH, and LACHLAN WARNER delve into the darker sides of life and keenly observe how our encounters with these moments can be both alluring, and even illuminating, in their own unique and peculiar ways.

Through the disarming quality of her whimsical and naïve style of painting, TANYA CHAITOW responds to recent events within the Australian context of catastrophic bushfires and isolation amidst a global pandemic. Striving to combat feelings of despondency regarding our collective circumstances and fear for the future, CHAITOW turns to hope in her engagements through the vibrancy of renewal, resilience and regrowth of the Australian bush. Her themes and depictions of familial relationships are explored through the reinterpretation of portraits and genre paintings by the old masters, including Goya and Gainsborough. This branch of exploration sees CHAITOW transforming the works of old masters through the use of silhouettes and collage, referenced from native flora printed commercial wrapping paper against a charred black background. The old master figures exist void of their original domestic settings and the often-dark interiors. Instead, they stand in stark contrast to a bright, open space; free to flourish and branch out into burst of foliage in their native floral incarnations. CHAITOW samples the compositions of the figures using silhouettes to highlight and exaggerate the tension and cohesion of figures; whether they are in isolation and distanced or tightly huddled as one amorphous mass; bound tightly together like a lush bunch of native flora. There is a haunting darkness to these figures, but one that is overwhelmed with the vibrancy of colour through the native floral motifs that embellish them. CHAITOW evokes the importance of natural beauty and colour on the human spirit, so vital in such difficult times.

DI HOLDSWORTH’s mechanical assemblages are characteristically imbued with her own eccentric brand of humour that delights in darkness. Each of her assemblages in this exhibition refer to a variety of contemporary world issues, such as, a reliance on fossil fuels; the unintended effects of pesticides on crucial pollinating insect species; the deeds of a psychopath; unrequited love; grim gender stereotypes of the sixties; and the solipsistic selfie-focused world we live in. The characters in her assemblages are constructed with vintage toys and mechanical movements that coyly and, teasingly, examine this array of uneasy subjects. Alongside visual narratives that play out in these kinetic sculptural works, the accompanying music box mechanisms carries a pace and memory that is both nostalgic and haunting. The dark themes in each of HOLDSWORTH’s works is underscored with playfulness and irony. In this way, the artist toys with alternative modes of engaging with the darker aspects of life.

The principal ideas of Buddhism teach that suffering is manifested through misunderstanding the reality of impermanence: that death is a part of life. LACHLAN WARNER draws on his Buddhism within his art practice to demonstrate how the darkness and brightness of existence are one, and how acceptance of these two aspects can allow us to live and love more fully. The catalyst for WARNER’s current ceramic practice occurred over a decade ago while conducting art and design tours of Rookwood Cemetery, and noticing the heavy clay content of the soil. When new graves were dug, the cemetery kindly allowed him access to soil that was excavated. WARNER’s fascination with both the clay material, and its link to impermanence, has informed a series of ceramics. The series of ceramics in this exhibition are LACHLAN WARNER’s Trangie Cups. These vessels are worked up from the clay that is dug up to make the graves at Trangie Cemetery, in western NSW, where several generations of his family are buried. Each cup is made from grave clay, hand processed then hand shaped into a drinking vessel. There is a delightfully crude, and earthy, quality to WARNER’s Trangie cups. The texture of exposed clay in these pinch pot forms – mottled with fingerprints and nail indentations – is rough and raw, yet also humble and tender. The viscous deep, green-tinged, black glaze poured around the rims of these small vessels appear to drip down the sides, as if each one is overflowing with a primordial ooze. Intermittent small flecks of white on the surface of this glistening black glaze appear to spread and delicately form patterns; akin to the scaly-leafed lichens that creep along gravestones. These are drinking vessels to be used: cups from which to nourish oneself and meditate on the intwined balance of life and death. LACHLAN WARNER wishes to pay particular acknowledgement to both Merran Esson and Julie Bartholomew for inspiring, encouraging and nurturing the development of this ceramic practice.

Sometimes it is necessary to broach these dark moments in order to reveal and appreciate the lighter aspects of life. But there is something innately enrapturing about those darker aspects of life and the imagination that sees us drawn to the shadows, in the same way a moth is compelled towards the light. Each artist here has created, conjured and exhumed imagery and forms that appeal to their own personal reckonings with dark moments.