Dispatch Review respectfully acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands upon which we live, work and enjoy. We pay deep respect to Elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Reviews:

  1. Light Event by Sam Beard
  2. Rejoinder: Archival / Activism by Max Vickery
  3. Access and Denial in The Purple Shall Govern by Jess van Heerden
  4. 4Spells by Sam Beard
  5. Abstract art, DMT capitalism and the ugliness of David Attwood’s paintings
    by Darren Jorgensen
  6. Unearthing new epistemologies of extraction by Samuel Beilby
  7. Seek Wisdom by Max Vickery
  8. Something for Everyone by Sam Beard
  9. Violent Sludge by Aimee Dodds
  10. State of Abstraction by Francis Russell
  11. Double Histories: Special Issue, with texts by Ian McLean, Terry Smith, and Darren Jorgensen & Sam Beard
  12. Six Missing Shows by Sam Beard
  13. What We Memorialise by Max Vickery
  14. At the End of the Land by Amelia Birch
  15. The beautiful is useful by Sam Beard
  16. ām / ammā / mā maram by Zali Morgan
  17. Making Ground, Breaking Ground by Maraya Takoniatis
  18. Art as Asset by Sam Beard
  19. Cactus Malpractice by Aimee Dodds
  20. Sweet sweet pea by Sam Beard
  21. COBRA by Francis Russell
  22. PICA Barn by Sam Beard 
  23. Gallery Hotel Metro by Aimee Dodds
  24. A Stroll Through the Sacred, Profane, and Bizarre by Samuel Beilby
  25. Filling in the Gaps at Spacingout by Maraya Takoniatis
  26. Disneyland Cosmoplitanism by Sam Beard
  27. Discovering Revenue by Anonymous
  28. Uncomfortable Borrowing by Jess van Heerden
  29. It’s Not That Strange by Stirling Kain
  30. Hatched Dispatched by Sam Beard & Aimee Dodds
  31. Fuck the Class System by Jess van Heerden, Jacinta Posik, Darren Jorgensen, et al.
  32. Wild About Nothing by Sam Beard
  33. Paranoiac, Peripatetic: Pet Projects by Aimee Dodds
  34. An Odd Moment for Women’s Art by Maraya Takoniatis
  35. Transmutations by Sam Beard
  36. The Post-Vandal by Sam Beard
  37. Art Thugs and Humbugs by Max Vickery
  38. Disneyland, Paris, Ardross and the artworld by Darren Jorgensen
  39. Bizarrely, A Biennale by Aimee Dodds
  40. Venus in Tullamarine by Sam Beard
  41. Weird Rituals by Sam Beard
  42. Random Cube by Francis Russell
  43. Yeah, Nah, Rockpool by Aimee Dodds
  44. Towards a Blind Horizon by Kieron Broadhurst
  45. Being Realistic by Sam Beard



Uncomfortable Borrowing

Set just beyond the bustle (the kind of bustle that Perth can muster anyway) in their Cathedral Square haven, Art Collective WA’s most recent side-by-side exhibition showcased Linde Ivimey’s Syndicate 5 + 1 Survey, Parvuli. Ivimey’s works are intricate and labour-intensive, displaying a breathtaking technical competency that could only be the product of a mature and dedicated art practice. All of the exhibited works are sombre, reflective, and dark. Yet Parvuli, in particular, leaves one with a lingering sense of discomfort. Does this discomfort arise from a personal confrontation that the art evokes (perhaps hitting some chord deep within us)? Or is this discomfort created by something more sinister, perhaps the sense that there is an unacknowledged cultural borrowing?
        Parvuli (Latin for childhood) consists of 11 sculptures made in answer to Lloyd Horn’s invitation for Ivimey to be the fifth recipient of the Syndicate Commission (hence Syndicate 5), 10 works for the syndicate members, and the 11th, Patrone, kept in the artist’s own collection. The Syndicate, a group of 10 art collectors, seeks to develop the Western Australian art scene by bringing successful Australian artists into Perth galleries. The 11 Parvuli children are tucked theatrically into the left wing of the Art Collective gallery, so that viewers must first travel past the smaller works that constitute the survey exhibition. This positions Parvuli as the main body of work in Ivimey’s Syndicate 5 + 1 Survey. Upon reaching the entranceway to the left wing, an immediate change is felt. The exhibition format shifts from carefully arranged shelving-as-plinths to an empty-walled white box, to the effect that the figures become more real and concrete than the smaller works displayed on the walls. Viewers are confronted with an army of frozen (dare I say it, taxidermied) children, each occupied with their separate whims on their own little islands.
        The cleverly devised curatorial separation of Ivimey’s Parvuli from the survey exhibition places viewers in an uncertain position from the outset as we are not quite sure if we are invited into the space. Is this a threshold we are allowed to cross? This was evident at the exhibition’s opening where most viewers lingered hesitantly at the entrance to the left wing, looking closely at the three sculptures filling the diagonal front rank, Patrone, Pontiac, and Red Rascal. Eventually, several brave individuals did walk around the right side of the wing to examine works further back, some even weaving gamely between rows for a closer look.
        The 11 figures are formally homogeneous, yet each is distinguished by slight shifts in materiality; their near black-and-white contrast is striking and alluring, sparsely penetrated by a vivid red, an emerald green, or a burnt umber. Ivimey’s serious and subdued colour scheme is not one we are accustomed to associating with children at play. Yet in viewing these works there is a sense that something more is amiss. Carrie McCarthy describes the body of work in the catalogue as captivating, ‘with a sense of otherworldliness that is hard to pin down.’ Parvuli’s dark charisma is only truly appreciated upon close examination. Ivimey's children are, at once, expertly woven, sewn, and welded in a fashion perfectly harmonious with their gallery setting, but these detailed intricacies are actually, upon closer inspection, rendered in bone and organic materials. Each sculpture is made from a strange combination of organic and artificial materials, including buffalo, turkey and bird bones, animal teeth, human hair, animal feathers, steel, synthetic polymers, buttons and dyed fabric. Once this is patent, the viewer is caught in visceral limbo somewhere between tenderness and revulsion. Should-be cute and innocent children at play become faceless objects we are not sure how to approach. Viewers are caught between their repulsion and the vulnerability of the fragile Parvuli figures, who seem to ask only for viewers to love them enough to indulge their childhood games.
        Ivimey’s Parvuli seems to display a similar ethos to painter Claudia Greathead’s fascination with teeth out of the mouth. In an interview with Kevin Wilson for issue 54 of Artist Profile, Greathead describes the reoccurring motif of isolated teeth in her work (e.g., Self Portrait as a tooth) as a tool to look at herself from another perspective. In removing a tooth from the mouth, Greathead explains, reality is disrupted. Greathead’s light-hearted stripping of context transforms an object from ordinary and unassuming to alien and intimidating. Perhaps Ivimey evokes discomfort in Parvuli as a challenge to viewers. The bones and hair, alien in the context of Parvuli, remind us that we are all made of the same stuff, bringing us back to the fundamentals that link us all: our shared humanity. Perhaps it is this confrontation with what we are made of that forces us to remember ‘our common experience of having once been children in a world that is as often overwhelming as it is joy filled’—as put by McCarthy in the catalogue.
        Yet this does not feel enough. Is there something else within the work, something beyond the organic-matter-becoming-alien/children combination? Does Parvuli inspire discomfort because it strikes upon something lurking deeper within us all? John McDonald’s 2013 Sydney Morning Herald review of Ivimey’s then current exhibition, Close to the Bone, describes the work on display as tapping into “our undying fears and anxieties” and taking imagery “from dreams and the subconscious.” 10 years on, the same can be said of Ivimey’s Parvuli. Although each sculpture contains something of the artist’s own biographical vulnerabilities and meditations, McCarthy explains that the work should be read, instead, as “all of us”. This is true of every one of the 11 works that make up the series: each gives the impression of being alluring despite our best judgement, as if there is something just beyond the veil. Ivemey’s works appear to allude to a dark underbelly, the shadows and depths of human emotion.
        It must be acknowledged however, that Parvuli’s discomfort comes too from the appearance of unacknowledged cultural borrowing. There is a strong resemblance between traditional Southern African tools and sacred items in Ivimey’s material, and her technical choices in the Parvuli works. The weaving of bird bones, specifically chicken bones, is a key technique featured in every one of Ivimey’s Parvuli. Weaving chicken bones to create a “Sangoma’s necklace” is also one of several practices used by Sangomas and Inyangas of Southern Africa (indigenous healers who are central figures in some traditional African communities). It is possible that Ivimey has seen a Sangoma’s necklace or similar items, as she harbours a great interest in museum collections. In an interview with Sonia Legge in 2018, Ivimey reported that she attends ‘as few openings as possible’, explaining ‘I’d rather see museum objects; they get me thinking in a good way’ (Artist Profile, issue 45, page 111). But this is of course a highly specific example, so in all fairness, it is possible, probable even, that Ivimey has never seen such items, even despite frequent travel to Africa since the age of 21, according to Louise Martin-Chew’s 2006 book, Linde Ivimey.
        Regardless, there remains in Ivimey’s recent body of work, forms, materials, and symbolism that epitomise Western reductive, stereotypical views of African rituals. Several writers have recognised this tendency in Ivimey’s work, including John McDonald and Caroline Baum. McDonald coined the phrase “voodoo dollies” to affectionately refer to Ivimey’s works in her Close to The Bone exhibition (the article, “Close to The Bone”, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013), while Baum states that ‘some poo-poo her work as pastiche primitivism’ in her 2007 Sydney Morning Herald article, “Linde Ivimey: From Birth to Earth” (interestingly, Baum uses demand as a counter argument to put these said nay-sayers to rest). McDonald and Baum’s mention of “voodoo” and “pastiche primitivism” touch upon what is at stake in Parvuli. The connotations of primitivism, with its ideas of “noble innocence” particularly recall the here-admired naïvety of Ivimey’s child figures. But that is precisely what is so intriguing about these works: their amorphous uncertainty, abstract enough to be widely relatable despite the included specificities of various cultural or biographical influences. These works are, in a way, the reverse of the totemic: they are not just idolatry, but are murky enough to call forth a variety of latent emotional and cultural meanings.
        Ivimey’s work explores deep, primal emotions and childhood experiences: the audience’s hesitancy to engage at close proximity and instead revere from afar is testament to their power. I think it is important to ask what ideas are connected and correlated, when the physical form of these imaginings are so similar to the stereotypical Western conceptions of African rituals. Given critics’ repeated notice over time of a potential cultural borrowing in Ivimey’s sculptures, this potentiality appears a pressure point in her widely successful practice. There are, whether incidental or accidental, certain assumptions and attitudes implied by these linkages.

Despite how viewers may respond to Linde Ivimey’s alluring and captivating, expertly crafted figures, Parvuli is not a body of work that one can easily forget or pass by unaffected.


Linde Ivimey, Syndicate 5 + 1 Survey, 24 Jun - 22 Jul 2023, Art Collective WA.



Artwork credits:
1. Linde Ivimey - Parvuli (artworks made for The Syndicate 5 project), 2023, varied dimensions.
2. Linde Ivimey, Syndicate 5 + 1 Survey, 2023. Installation view Acorn Photo.
3. Linde Ivimey - Tocci, Sacchuro Mortis, Picsis and Travel Companions, varied dimensions.