Neon Parc announces a two person exhibition of recent and historical works by Maria Kozic and Darren Sylvester at the Brunswick gallery. A curated selection of photographic, painted and sculptural works, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to compare and contrast each artists’ methodology, as their works each separately navigate ideas of the Self, transformation and popular culture.
Kozic’s historical works in the exhibition take cues from cinema, Art History and advertising. First exhibited in 1999, Calendar Girls is a suite of twelve large-scale portraits of women whose projected expressions of carefree confidence and beauty masked a darker backdrop.
Yet upon closer inspection, each of the models bare secret mishaps, injuries and scars. In Miss March (1999), a female face fills the large canvas, half grinning, despite three large scars wriggling across her otherwise flawless skin. Miss March is based on a newspaper clipping, telling the story of a model who had had her face slashed by an obsessed male admirer who couldn’t handle her rejection. Like many works in Calendar Girls, the female figure is empowered rather than passive, returning the gaze of their tormentor and defying stereotypical representations of women.
In another suite of works by Kozic titled Magnet Heads (1985), four small metal squares are painted in dusty enamel whites and inky blacks, portraying a different kind of body image – one of the human head in profile. For these works, Kozic has sketched a few simple facial signifiers such as curly hair, a large ear, or dull eyes. The remainder of the image is completed with a thin black chain, which can be manipulated by the viewer to create different profiles, transforming the figures into macabre, hilarious or goofy personas. Magnet Heads could be seen as advertisements for a crude Victorian-era cosmetic surgery, where the patient pin-points their own flaws on a surrogate panel, ready for the knife.
A large recent multi-panel work by Sylvester anchors works in the exhibition by its sheer size at almost 5 metres wide and 2.4 metres tall. Titled Séance (2022), the work was commissioned for the Adelaide Biennale in 2022 and is one of the artists’ most ambitious works to date, coupling his studio based tableaux with a selection of inanimate human models whose role is to illustrate not the décor nor clothing, but the ambiance which the artist builds up over weeks for the production of a single image.
The wavy warm yellow lines which make up the backdrop for Séance are reminiscent of a late 1970s house party, guests half-baked, half-naked, half-interested but twinkling and glamourous, nonetheless. In this work, each participant looks as glossy as the bejewelled chandelier which lights the twilight scene, hands entwined ready for communion with the afterlife, although their contact may be as spiritually fulfilling as endlessly scrolling through celebrity accounts on Instagram.
In Just Death is True (2007), a modest sized photography by Sylvester, a sleepy eyed brunette covered in a bright blue face mask stares blankly out of the picture plane, while an ivory telephone receiver is cupped to her naked shoulder. The aphorism like title hints at the lightness of the composition, which could easily be read as straightforward advertising, yet if read as a caption, one might suggest the sales pitch is for self-administered euthanasia, not the pursuit of reduced wrinkles.
Sylvester has always been interested in the ways and means by which contemporary media structures and manufactures subjectivity, yet in his extremely orchestrated scenarios, he mimics the core features of contemporary commodity imagery production. As the artist stated in an interview: ‘Often a banal object can bring some sense of completion or happiness – if only for a short while, and I think that’s the best we can hope for’.
In addition to wall-based works by both artists are the installations The Fly (1985) by Kozic and Sausage Biscuit (2017) and two mirror polished steel Ouija boards from 2019 by Sylvester.