Ideas Platform

Julia Robinson
Long Ballads

23 Jun – 14 Jul 2017

Above: 'Long Ballads', installation view, Artspace, Sydney, 2017. Photo: Jessica Maurer.
43–51 Cowper Wharf Roadway
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Sydney Australia
Thursday 22 June, 6pm

Hybridising naturally occurring plant forms with practices of costuming and adornment, Long Ballads explores themes of fecundity, ritual and the cycle of the seasons. Collectively the work takes its cues from a range of rituals that affirm life and ward off death, many of which are still performed in England and across Europe today. These performances involve elaborate costumed characters and are boisterous, bawdy and aggressive, frequently invoking the phallus as a symbol of virility.

Long Ballads is a playful meditation on such rituals with an emphasis on the gourd: a peculiar vegetable that is strikingly phallic and has many auspicious connotations due to its affluence of seeds, fast growth rate and refusal to rot. In a Biblical context, it may be emblematic of eternal life, while in Chinese culture it is associated with fertility, release and a plethora of progeny.

At the heart of this exhibition is a playfulness centred around these qualities of the gourd and its capacity to be interpreted both light-heartedly and with sincerity. An aesthetic derived from ceremonial vestments and Elizabethan era clothing flavours the work. The laborious and materially consumptive technique of hand-sewn smocking implies indulgence while the lovingly tailored augmentations are intended to be equal parts playful and delicately rude. The works may also be thought of as paraphernalia or props for a set of unspecified rituals of the artist’s own devising.

While the work is characterised by a bawdy sense of humour, as with many things that make us laugh, it is also intended to be taken seriously. The bawdiness becomes a point of departure from which Robinson extrapolates on the themes of death, the afterlife, and resurrection.

Presented in partnership with ACE Open, Adelaide.