Fear, Love and Idiosyncrasies
New works by Linda Skrolys and Russell Sheridan
Dardanup, home to artists Linda Skrolys and Russell Sheridan, also hosts the annual Bull and Barrel Festival, where punters can commune intimately with 3 trillion blowflies while wandering aimlessly around a paddock eating roast beef rolls and drinking indifferent wines. The festival culminates after the sun sets with the ritualistic burning of a huge wooden statue of a bull – think The Wicker Man, but somewhat less exciting as there isn’t a policeman trapped inside.
In the past, the bull has been created by Sheridan and he usually does a cracking job, building a thirty-foot high taurean monster out of several tons of wood. What should be a rip-roaring bonfire, however, is fatally handicapped by the inane health and safety panderings enforced on the event. Fire accelerant that acts as a fire retardant, safety ropes keeping everyone miles away, over-zealous officials, over-tired children, a no smoking rule (WTF?) etc. Utterly removing any fun and mildly pagan element from this bonfire has left it as a sort of clinical and uninspiring exercise in how-to-burn-a-wooden-statue.
Anyway, given that Sheridan’s prize pieces end up as piles of ash and cinder, it seemed worth a trip south to see how his new (so far unburnt) sculptures and paintings would fare in the rapidly cooling local contemporary art market. Along with Sheridan’s paintings and sculptures, there were a couple of dozen new paintings by his partner, Skrolys. The venue for this joint show was their lush 12 acre spread just outside Dardanup where they had a live jazz band, beautiful gardens, lots of booze and plenty of flies.
Sheridan doesn’t muck around with the small stuff. His sculptures are freakin’ huge and so are his paintings. The sculptures are like the bastard love children of Michael Leunig and Rube Goldberg. Solid chunks of timber, scavenged iron, brass and steel mechanical bits and bobs. Disappointingly, though, he molds some components (most notably the figures) of the works in fiberglass and stains them with oxide. Part of the appeal of this sort of work is its hardiness and timeless solidity, which is derailed substantially by the use of such a transient and insubstantial material. There’s also a twee element about them which I found grating given the materials employed. Perhaps he desired that contrast, but it didn’t work for me.
Still, that didn’t stop a red sticker appearing on Helicopter Girl (AU$12,000). I paused to ponder just who might have snapped it up and then I saw Liz and Lloyd Horn and it became clear. Let’s hope they keep it up; with local governments around Australia on the bones of their arses financially, there won’t be a hell of lot of acquisitions coming from that direction in the future.
Like his sculptures, Sheridan’s painting’s are big, bold and ballsy. As well as ballsy, they’re also penis-y, as most of the works have dicks in them. They also have a kind of reckless, couldn’t-give-a-fuck joyousness about them. You can imagine him happily knocking them out while he’s killing some time waiting for a load of scavenged steel engine parts to arrive from the wrecking yard.
But dicks are a tricky thing for a variety of reasons that for the sake of brevity I won’t go into here. Although their appearance can sometimes enhance a work’s prospects, it’s more usual that they limit a work’s salability. Particularly when the penis in question is on a dynamite-laden suicide bomber being suckled at the breast of a haloed negress (“Mercy”). Just the sort of entry statement a captain of industry might choose for the reception area of his headquarters. Or perhaps not, as the lack of red stickers on the penii pics would indicate.
Sheridan paints dicks as pointy sorts of abstract protrusions (like a spear), whereas the female subject’s breasts and pudenda are almost anatomically correct. Why, I wondered? But it’s likely that only Freud could work that one out.
Red stickers were in abundance, however, on Skrolys’ paintings, proving that it’s still a bull-market for paintings sans foreheads.
Our fave was the one with the big black horse, harking back to Skrolys’ earlier work which had a much darker side to it.
The launch went well into the late evening and everyone had way too much to drink, which was a nice change after other shows we’ve recently attended. Let’s hope that the coming recession puts alcohol firmly back on the arts agenda.