a gallery presents


VS the art of going over OPENING

Filed under: Art


VS the art of going over

Filed under: Art

COSMIC DRAMA by Gavin Bertram printed in D scene 20/04/11

Dunedin artist Sharon Singer says there is research involved in her work-even though it may happen in a haphazard manner. “Nothing happens in a vacuum, but it’s more by osmosis “, she says of her reading and internet delving.

“I’m totally addicted to National Geographic and I think they inform a lot of the work.”

She’s also in touch with an online community of artists and academics, but it’s perhaps the world represented in National Geographic’s glossy pages that looms largest over Singer’s current exhibition.

Soil, at the relatively new a gallery on princes St, is loosely   themed around man’s ongoing endeavours   to   use the resources provided by Earth in the belief that the planet is inexhaustible.

This ranges from the oil industry and the ecological disasters it’s wreaked, to religious ideas about use and ownership of land.

“I don’t call it God or anything like that but I think the planet has a   consciousness,”the artist explains.

“It’s not indifferent to what we are doing .When you look at these earthquakes and tidal waves it gives you pause to wonder. There is this kind of   cosmic drama  going on and we ‘re a part of it ,but I don’t think we’re going to be part of it for too much longer if we don’t get it together.”

Singer came to Dunedin in 2005 to complete her Masters at the Otago Polytechnic’s School of Art.

One of her main interests has been fairytales and myths , and some of her works have been used in international publications, including Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion. That was edited by Jack Zipes   ,an academic with expertise in fairytales that Singer began communicating with over the net.

“When I was doing my masters I was engaged in this research and he kept coming up,” she says.

“it was really accessible writing and really intelligent , and I thought  I’m going to send him an email .He  came to New Zealand  and purchased a work ,and we still communicate .There’s this community of interest I’m fortunate to be able to draw on and have these dialogues with people”.

Such has been Singer’s association with fairytales that some who attended the opening of Soil were surprised the artist had moved from the subject.

“But it’s still story-telling,” she considers.

“It’s still dealing with the same issues of fear and desire .I  think that underlies our relationship with the land.”

Soil comments on such contemporary issues as over consumption, capitalism, pollution   and greed .Singer admits that what she calls “consciousness –raising art” can have a cringe factor ; it also has a place.

“I think artists get away with it, and there’s almost this expectation that it’s part of the role” she reflects

“Art shouldn’t be about art, it should be about life.”


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SOIL Review by Naomi Boult

Sharon Singer’s solo show, the aptly named Soil, seems to be a departure from the general tenor of a gallery’s earlier exhibitions, as well as from her own well-developed style. Singer’s works, which have in the past been densely populated by her own personal lexicon of mythical archetypes, are now almost entirely uninhabited. Instead, they seem to envision the raw emptiness of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In these latest works Singer uses bold expressive brushstrokes to pay homage to the beauty of nature, but there is also a darkness which lurks just below the surface. These landscapes are not a backdrop to humanity, but rather a subject rife with their own ominous narrative and atmosphere. The early 20th century neo-romantics depicted similarly evocative landscapes and were significantly affected by the zeitgeist of war time Europe. Singer appears to have explored this concept in a contemporary setting, utilizing the modern fear of the ever present precipice of disaster to instill her landscapes with a foreboding resonance.

In two of her Postcard series Singer uses a predominantly ochre and charcoal palette, creating landscapes that seem to perpetually exist in the moments just before nightfall. The two other works from the same series depict a different vista. One is awash with muted cold light, the other in burning shades of red and orange. As different as these paintings are, they are all united by a common element. There is a desolate beauty to these works which reminds us that, in the absence of humanity, the topography of the land remains constant.

The brooches on display are to my mind, an intriguing combination of the Dutch tradition of Vanitas and Victorian mourning jewelry. Singer has worked in wearable art in the past, and these pieces demonstrate that art need not always be relegated to a gallery environment. Where Vanitas, with their skulls and rotting fruit, served as a reminder of mortality, and mourning jewelry has traditionally served as a reminder of a particular lost loved one, these ornate brooches adorned with painted skulls, seem to provide a subtle commentary on the universal transience of life.

The insidious presence of death is further explored in Dead Sea Mermaid, one of the two works in this show which is occupied by human or humanlike figures. The serpentine skeletal form of the mermaid is draped in colourful Mardi Gras beads, dutifully earned given the figure’s ghostly outline of breasts. By contrast the work Prey which hangs on the adjacent wall, features the Virgin Mary running a rosary of skulls through her hands, her blue robes blending into the surrounding imagery. This work is further populated by a combination of old and new, reality and make-believe. In this world a rather startled looking anthropomorphised hot air balloon, a lonely moa and a modern day boat, all become part of the same mythology. These elements collectively offer the viewer an impression of playfulness that is engaging but which also generates a sense of unease. This combination of gravity and celebration resonates throughout Soil, and provides an interesting premise for willing viewers to follow through the exhibition.

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