Review: Guardians Of The Departed
Guardians Of The Departed
Studio 2 & 3
249–251 Chapel Street Prahran
4 March 2009 - 28 March 2009
Last September I was in studio 3 at the British School at Rome, Amanda Marburg was in studio 7. It was way too hot to paint, or do anything much other than take refuge in the cool dark marble interiors of churches and smirk at the baroque excess, or be dumbstruck by crypts decorated with the bones of Franciscan monks. We went swimming in the azure waters at Sperlonga where the emperor Tiberius had his dining room in a sea cave filled with colossal statues depicting scenes from the Odyssey and where now Italian grandparents sunbathe in their Armani G-strings.
At that time Amanda was working on little plasticine figurines, headless statues, demons from Italian paintings of sinners being tortured in Hell and plasticine mosaics of Pompeian porn. Much of what I saw back then has now been transfigured into painted form for her superb new show, “Guardians Of The Departed“ at Uplands Gallery in Prahran.
The eight oil paintings on show are impressively executed, super smooth, highly realist renderings of completely unreal absurdities. “II”, “IV” and “V” depict three enraged demons (one of whom has a serpent for a penis), and though they brandish infernal weaponry, they are not quite as malevolent as they are adorable. “I” is of a bird, so clumsily misshapen that when it gaped at me with it’s mute doughy eye, my heart turned to plasticine. “VIII,” a painting of a headless statue standing on a Salvatore Ferragamo shoe box does have it’s own sort of majesty, but the poise and grace of classical antiquity are somewhat undermined by whatever it is that she has under her arm. Is it a head? Is it her head? And why does it have that demented expression on it’s face?
“Guardians of the departed” is an Italian term for stray cats that live in cemeteries and amongst ruins and I can well imagine an alternate reality where these hilarious figures live amongst the rubble and are fed by crazy Italian Nonnas. Marburg has hit upon an original and compelling technique for reshaping reality to create her own universe and she can apply this process to seemingly anything. She marries fine realist painting with photography and cack handed sculpture to produce a hybrid which is much more than the sum of it’s parts.
© Tony Lloyd 2009