Gaffa - lure, allure, illusion

Photographs by Michelle Heldon

lure allure illusion

Opening Thurs 26th March, 6-8pm, continues to 7th April 2009
Gaffa, level 1 / 7 Randle St, Surry Hills,

lure, allure, illusion, is a group exhibition, featuring artwork by Kath Fries, Virginia Mawer, Michelle Heldon, Beth Norling, Megan Sprague and Linden Braye.

Each artist explores a unique creative process of tactile engagement with unusual materials. Gallery visitors are invited to respond to the sensory nature of specific artworks by following the artist's directions, often opposing standard art gallery 'do not touch' etiquette.

The works selected for this exhibition reflect how these six artists are following their own lines of investigation into materiality and conceptual dialogues. The materials examined range from feathers and chocolate; pins, lace and water; plasticine; salt and neon lights; to found and domestic objects. The initial dynamics of interacting with such materials is merely an introduction to the extensive issues, philosophies and topical concerns these artists engage with.

lure, allure, illusion, provokes tangible personal engagement with our seduction/destruction responses to materiality. Such human behavioural habits reach beyond the gallery, alluding to global issues of consumption, consumerism, denial and desire.

- Kath Fries (exhibition curator)


The Open Road – Kate Moore

During the opening of lure allure illusion,  Kate Moore will roam around the gallery scratching out a never-ending tune ‘Lyre’, on her old phonoviolin. The seven notes of the hypnotic tune recall a long gone era of wanderers along The Open Road. A continuous journey carrying no material burdens, the minstrel’s path holds no objects or possessions to tie one down.

Kate Moore is an Australian composer, performer, musician and artist, who currently resides in the Netherlands whilst undertaking a PhD in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. As well as composing music, she has worked on numerous international projects with artists, dancers, actors and musicians. Later this year Kate Moore and Kath Fries will be collaborating on a sound and visual art project at the Laughing Waters Artists-in-Residence Program in Victoria.
"...Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one..." 
- Albert Einstein

Exhibition Opening Invitation


“…there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next…” -Samuel Ullman

~ tempt to do something / go somewhere potentially dangerous
~ a thing that lures a person or animal to do something
~ the attractive qualities of a person or thing
~ qualities that attract by seeming to promise some kind of reward
~ anything that serves as an enticement
~ provoke someone to do something through (often false or exaggerated) promises or persuasion
~ a type of bait used in fishing or hunting
~ a bunch of feathers with a piece of meat attached to a long string, swung around the head of a falconer to recall a hawk
~ from Old French ‘luere’

~ the power to attract, entice; the quality causing attraction.
~ to attempt to draw; to tempt by a lure or bait, that is, by the offer of some good, real or apparent; to invite by something flattering or acceptable; to entice; to attract.
~ to attract; entice; tempt; decoy; seduce
~ from Old French ‘aleurier’

~ a false or unreal perception or belief
~ a deceptive appearance or impression
~ from Latin ‘illudere’ meaning ‘to mock’

"... this notion of falseness that can creep into play of thought is shown in the etymology of the words illusion, delusion, and collusion, all of which have as their Latin root ludere, to play. So illusion implies playing false with perception; delusion, playing false with thought; collusion, playing false together in order to support each other's illusions and delusions ..."
-David Bohm, Science, Order, and Creativity, 2000


Kath Fries

Lure - Sirens’ Song
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were mystical, dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses, who lived on an island surrounded by hazardous cliffs. Passing sailors were so enraptured by the Sirens' enchanting harp music and singing, that they were lured to their deaths - helpless to prevent their ships wrecking on the rocky coast.

Lure - Sirens’ Song manipulates feathers, tar, fishing line, mirrors and dripping paint, to echo this ancient story of seduction and destruction. Feathers, like those from the Sirens’ wings are intimate objects that can tantalise and seduce, but at the same time convey a sense of doom and destruction as birds were killed so their feathers could be plucked.


Wouldn't it be nice if the world was...

Our uncontrollable - almost childlike - compulsion to consume chocolate seems to be almost a primal gluttonous instinct. We just can't help ourselves, so susceptible are we to chocolate's sensory attractions. Chocolate has long been symbolic in the rituals of romance, since the times of the Aztecs chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac and linked to fertility. (Isabel Allende, Aphrodite, p157)

Wouldn't it be nice if the world was... explores this relationship by retelling two stories about children and chocolate, in the form of chocolate drops sprouting from the gallery wall, arranged in patterns of raised Braille dots. The first story is a familiar fictitious fairytale, the second is contemporary non-fiction, but as adults and privileged consumers we are often blind its truth and numerous versions. The first panel of chocolate drop Braille narrates a section of The Brothers Grimm fairytale, two children, Hansel and Gretel, devour the chocolate and lolly covered gingerbread house, constructed by a blind, old, wicked witch who plans to capture and eat the children herself.

The second story relates the experiences of a young African boy, Aly Diabate, falsely lured away from his home in Mali to work as a slave on an Ivory Coast cocoa plantation. Forced to work from dawn til dusk, struggling to carry large heavy bags of cocoa beans, he often collapsed from fatigue, which prompted the farmer to beat him severely for working too slowly. The abuse continued as Aly was horribly underfeed and locked up at night, with the other children, in a small confined room so they wouldn’t escape.
West Africa collectively produces three quarters of the world's cocoa supplies, so almost all the chocolate sold around the world today contains a percentage of cocoa produced by child slave labour.
Perhaps our blind, almost childlike responses to the allure of chocolate fuels our naive illusions, but in reality our consumption of chocolate is much more destructive than than we superficially like to believe.

Kath Fries, Artist Statements, March 2009

Chocolate and Slavery,
A Taste of Slavery,
The Bitter Truth About Chocolate,

Linden Braye

Illusion, Reality and Cheap Tricks

I make constructions from low status materials that are found or purchased from urban and natural environments.
In reality, my work references the natural world through the built one. Not only is this true in relation to my art but it is a reflection of the ‘nature’ of the city in which I live. Nature survives in urban spaces through popular culture and art-i-ficial habitats.

Reality or illusion; my work is not a mirror image of my surroundings, but a reflection of its contradictions and contrasts. The results are often absurdly funny or grotesque and sometimes - just a friendly narrative of iconic images.

Linden Braye, artist statement February 2009

Megan Sprague

Obsessed, bewildered
By the shipwreck
Of the singular
We have chosen the meaning
Of being numerous

(George Oppen, Of Being Numerous, 1968)

being numerous’ is one of a series of recent works that reflects my shift in thinking about the relationship of the individual to community. being signifies the individual, the singular, whereas ‘numerous’ suggests the community, the many. The work also, almost involuntarily questions our relation to the environment with special reference to degradation of primary elements of agricultural survival.

At times when we talk of community we tend to think in terms of a desire for unity or shared purpose. Some may seek a Rousseauian notion of community, an intimacy or immanence that binds individuals into a common substance. My work is not this, nor is it a communion of political nationalism, homogenized and simplistic (that paradoxically echoes the oppressive faceless community of totalitarianism or absolutism). Rather I am dealing with a community constructed of inherent differences, splintered and fractured, whereby experience and meaning occur within these fractures - the spaces in-between. It is in this between space that the connections, the sharing, the being-with of experience and meaning is derived.

My idea for the cast salt work was inspired by the writings of Radical Empiricist William James. Unable to describe successfully how the objects of experience can come together in any coherent fashion he used the mosaic as a metaphor for the edges of experience. James argued that the pluralistic rather than atomistic (or singular) nature of experience supposes a continuous flux of both difference and unity wherein the transformations of experience depended upon conjunctive as well as disjunctive relations. The un-bedded edges of the mosaic were where these conjunctive and disjunctive relations met. However, it was Jean-Luc Nancy (The Inoperative Community 1991) who said to think the individual, the singular, first, before that of community is to think ones existence in terms of absolutes, theoretical philosophical extremes, as atomized beings. Ultimately he believed there is no meaning if meaning is not shared. The importance of Nancy’s (and James) thinking does not diminish the relevance of the individual; rather the shift of focus is from thinking the individual first, to a different point of departure, the being-with of community. Salt fits well for expressing these theoretical underpinnings. Salt is not a single mass, such as wood or steel or plastic. Rather it is an essential element, made up of individual crystals that only gain any meaning once they are assembled collectively. A single crystal or grain of salt is meaningless without its collective; it is a single point only.

It is an impossibility to think of ourselves as a single being and yet, we think first from the position of the individual. This is the illusion of the individual.

Megan Sprague
Artist Statement February 2009

Michelle Heldon

Inspired by nature my works reflect an essence of memory and place. When we are in nature we tend to slow down, we experience the place around us, through not just what we see but also what we feel. From studies at various locations I construct small assemblages and these lead onto larger scale works.

The found object is of particular interest to me due to its humble form and embedded history. My works are created by responding to the way different materials feel and react to each other. I create small constructions and build up surfaces focusing on form, colour, texture, shape and the relationship between these parts. I use handmade paper and pigments and found wood and objects to make ‘artworks’ that feel like they have just been discovered rather than created by a human hand.

My work is aimed at encouraging the viewer to pause and look deeper. To take on a moment: a space- one of slowness, calm and sensitivity. To notice something they may not have seen at first glance. Or to wonder and something they are unable to see or understand.

We miss so much in the busy world around us and yet there is beauty in the simplest things if we have time to notice them. To feel art rather than just see it is an inspiring thing.

Michelle Heldon, Artist Statement February 2009

Beth Norling

'Don't touch'. My work is about secrets, the things I can't or wont otherwise express. I conceal objects and narratives of unspeakable origin beneath a lacework of plasticene or under a canopy of drapery or curls. These works are both drawing and sculpture, playing on the edge between repugnant and the exquisite, the worthless and the covetable. These works describe the uneasy tension between attraction and restraint and reveal, through a very personal symbolism, the quietly beautiful and erotic nature of obsession.
Beth Norling, artist statement, 2009

Virginia Mawer

Hello, my lover, Goodbye

The Greek philosopher Heraclitis observed that through water, “everything exists in a state of flux. Situated between shapelessness and form; or potential and reality, it is perhaps the perfect lens through which to consider ideas about who or what we are, and where our place is within the world.” (David Suzuki, Liquid Sea , MCA, p13)

Water became a symbol, a material, a methodology and a stage for which to explore my ideas. Cultural and historically, water not only connects us to our place in this world, but draws reference to death, transformation the afterlife. Drawing on a range of beliefs, it can be seen that “water symbolizes the whole of potentiality: it is the fons et origo, the source of all possible existence. Water symbolizes the primal substance from which all forms come and to which they will all return.” (David Jasper, "Screening Angels," The Art of Bill Viola, p.184)

This work, comprised of film, photography and sculpture looks at the choreographed movements of an altered bed sheet. Pinquilt is a broderie anglaise bedcover embellished with thousands of pearl white sewing pins that follow the stitched pattern on the fabric. The top surface shows us its shiny ‘bubbles’ but the underside reveals something more sinister. The multitude of sharp ended pins wave and jiggle coyly like a centipede’s legs, but their shiny silver tips would scratch and pierce the surface of the skin if given the chance. In no way a cosy cover for sleeping, it presents a discomforting punishment that prevents relaxation and denies rest. As a prop, it has been let loose from the confines of its prior existence.

Under the surface of the water, the form glides through space with the slow motion waving frill of a manta ray or recoiled for attack like an angry cuttlefish. The often slow movements, suggest suspension in a moment of weightlessness. This floating suspension was performed by the sheet-as-shroud, remembering the death associated with oceanic imagery.

Virginia Mawer, artist statement February 2009

Although a Sydney girl at heart, Virginia Mawer loves to be out of the country and on the move. In order to see the world and improve her failing Italian, she completed a year at L’Accademia delle Belle Arti in Italy as part of her double degree. Staying on after the academic year had finished, she traipsed about Europe in search of the good life and inner peace. Failing to find either, she returned home to concentrate on her first love, art.

After finishing off the degrees and adding on a gruelling honours year, Virginia is a bit tired. She is taking a catnap in preparation for her masters but continues to exhibit locally and internationally in the meantime.

lure, allure, illusion - upcoming exhibition

26th March - 7th April 2009

Gaffa Gallery ~ 1/7 Randle Street, Surry Hills, Sydney ~

Artists: Kath Fries, Beth Norling, Linden Braye, Michelle Heldon, Virginia Mawer and Megan Sprague

lure, allure, illusion explores layers of sensory engagement within artistic processes and materiality. Each artist reveals and manipulates elements of attraction and repulsion, which are specific to their personal selection of unusual and non-traditional materials. The finial artworks, shown together for the first time in this exhibition, entice you to respond physically and emotionally to the tactility of the artworks. In some cases you are specifically invited to touch the work, but in others you are instructed to control your impulses. Perhaps the most challenging situation develops when no clear directions are given, then you must decide for yourself what level of tactile engagement you are prepared to hazard. The works exhibited in lure, allure, illusion compel a personal exploration of the relationships between seduction and destruction, which extends beyond the gallery into broader to issues of consumption, consumerism, denial and desire.