Dredging Up 2006
1. At some point she ceased to develop. She put her hands down and stopped tinkering with what she and the world around her was. She just made stuffed forms…….endlessly.
2. I detected compulsive tendencies in her art practice.
3. Those ‘others’ that she seemed so intent on making…..gave off a sense of enormous ennui and frustration- creatures literally ‘climbing the walls’ -of time dragging slowly, of tragedy.
4. She looked bizarre, absolutely bizarre….always a bit bedraggled, tired and older than her years but somehow trying to cover that up. Wretched
5. She didn’t like anyone to look at her face.
6. Ah! Those little animals she made! Soooo cute! Sometimes a bit spooky but hey….. she rocked!
7. I first saw her sitting on a rug at the Sydney Biennale, outside the M.C.A. She was drooped around an array of those little painted creatures that she’d made. She wasn’t begging just hoping for some sales but she exuded such an air of dejection. I even saw some tourists toss coins onto her blanket.
8. Her grant applications were never successful and I can’t say I’m surprised.
9. She barely had two cents to rub together but her peregrinations were extensive. I recollect spotting her at the Venice Biennale one time, flaunting her wares in the bucolic Vergini Garden at the very end of the picturesque Arsenale. Extraordinary!
10. At the height of her career as an artist she wore huge, round heads and lurked around the fringes of the art world. No-one really knew what was going on but it provided an amusing diversion.
11. I once witnessed a gang of youths approach her and smash her huge papier-mache head with sticks. I guess the carapace offered her some kind of protection but she toppled over and then they kicked her head in. It must have been very well made because it hardly suffered a dent!
12. She rarely spoke…… but it has been mentioned to me that she was prone to occasional outbreaks of quite outrageous, touretty abuse followed by tears of shame. Indeed it was only recently that I saw her hurl a glass of red wine to the ground at the C.A.C.S.A.! Ha!…...maybe it tasted horrid.
13. I’ll always remember these little, cardboard, model houses that she made. The construction was bodgy but there was a lot of love and longing put into them. It was almost as if she really wanted a home but this was the only type she could actually lay her hands on. They were all lit up with fairy lights and had sparkly bits here and there. I wonder what happened to those…..
14. I heard tell that she’d been mixed up with some very bad men in her life.
15. She was really pathetic.
16. I never saw her face. It was always covered up with bandages, masks or those stupid big heads she wore.
17. She wasn’t always such a desperado. I’ve seen her work in the collections of several state galleries so there must have been a time when her work was deemed of some interest to somebody.
18. The creatures hung on gallery walls gathered mainly in mobs. While they had their paint and their best sequins and beads on, snippets of untamed beauty poked through. The existence of these beings was entwined within the pressures of keeping up appearances. Obviously they had spent a lot of their time preening but alas, the real self always peeks through.
19. I have this feeling there was more going on than meets the eye. I went round to her house once and there were signs of a scuffle. Nothing was said.
20. She made those little animal/human forms intuitively and directly avoiding second thoughts. She intended to deal in the (irrationally) emotional and sensual aspects of the materials and of ‘appearance’. It was about display and self-consciousness.
21. Her work made me feel quite queasy.
22. She struggled at various points in her life to earn a living as a cleaner, a call centre operator and a waitress but couldn’t handle the stress and only really found solace in making objects.
23. There was talk of getting rid of herself. I’m not quite sure if it was a suicidal tendency or a spiritual thing. I like to think of it as a desire to get over or beyond herself….perhaps into a less self-aware sort of space. Less self-conscious maybe…. I think she would have liked to have been more confident and able to function without constantly wondering how she was perceived.
24. There was this black cat that seemed to be around for years called Lucia. When it died, she had it taxidermied and it used to sit upright on the corner of the rug with her other creatures. It looked so stiff. It was macabre.
25. The rumour goes that her cat Lucia met with a premature death in order that she might be preserved before becoming too manky.
26. She tried a lot of different things to make a living but didn’t quite have the knack for it. I saw her running a workshop for young kids once. It was at some festival and she’d made these lovely huge heads and the children could decorate them and try them on for photos. But she looked frazzled. She couldn’t control the kids and they just trashed the heads. It was distressing to watch. It was as if they were attacking her own children but she couldn’t stop them.
27. I never knew her that well but I think she was popular and well liked. People coveted those cute little soft toys that she used to make. I don’t think she could keep up with the demand especially from the Japanese. She could have been as successful as Yoshitomo Nara if she’d played her cards right.
28. In 2004 she was arrested and charged with vagrancy. She seemed to be living out on the streets, making funny little camps in city corners. It was hard to tell if it was an art project or she was genuinely down on her luck.
29. I think she was very introverted but harboured a desire to create social spaces and interact with her audience. She offered a service whereby she would stitch embroidered labels onto clothing of anyone who was up for it. The takers were, by and large, a bunch of odd balls and social misfits themselves. This scheme rarely facilitated any meaningful social interactions. It can best be described as a desultory activity.
30. My friend in W.A. came across her doing a residency at the School of Contemporary Arts surrounded by a motley group of students who seemed quite enchanted. She must have had something to offer. A Chinese student presented her with two sets of red laquered chopsticks.
31. One sensed that she could have developed an intensely disturbing art practice at the lunatic edge but she was lacking in energy and her most outstanding feature was her passivity.
32. She was very low voltage.
33. I think many people suspected that she was stupid but I think she was actually hyper-sensitive and tried to stay still in order to be able to process a world she found almost unbearably distressing.
34. Everything had to be recycled. I think this was an all consuming burden that held her back.
35. It wasn’t just the rubbish and the piles of newspaper that weighed her down. She suffered from an excessive feeling of emotional deprivation that was compounded by a predilection for self-observation and self-centredness. She dwelt on things too much.
36. She was wrong
37. I know she felt useless and meaningless….but she was wrong.
38. Hand made qualities were emphasised in all her works, as was the feel of her materials, and she consistently invoked a cosy padded place.
39. She had some unusual craft skills and approaches to making objects. She was probably in her element as an art student. Beyond that it’s hard to know where she fitted into the greater scheme of things.
40. The artefacts she compulsively made did speak of her obsessions and repressions but they were all the more powerful for it.
41. I remember seeing her work in a show in an old dodgem car rink where all these little figures or shapes were imprisoned in chains of adjoining cubicles that the viewer stood over to peer into from above. Some had pooed their cages!
42. It was as if she was engaged in constant, high-end art therapy…..but without actually much sign of improvement in her mental health.
43. If someone had taken care of her, nurtured her and represented her…she would have flourished. She would never have let anyone do that.
44. She seemed to wallow in feeling abandoned and not up to scratch.
45. It was rubbish really. Nobody thought she was in that much of a predicament. Often she seemed quite normal and able to function but then one wondered why she would slope off quietly.
46. In the end she didn’t seem to feel shame or embarrassment anymore I just wish she’d had some strength left to get angry.
47. Those creatures in boxes that she used to exhibit…imprisoned within…they were variously seen to be sleeping, bored or in despair; numbly ‘seated’, curled in corners; or trying to scale the walls- to escape or join others. One felt great sympathy.
48. I had no time whatsoever for that abject stance. Did she think she might get some kind of positive attention from it? No-one likes a loser.
49. She didn’t thrive in high achieving environments because she had no desire to compete.
50. There were a few things that weren’t good for her, the wrong path taken instead of the right one, the rubbing up against it, the wearing into of it, of herself, the one that she tried to make perfect.
Compiled by Sarah crowEST after Christian Boltanski. Thank you to Katrina Simmons, Jim Strickland, Sera Waters and Ken Bolton for a few comments snitched from reviews.