Review: Kate Rohde's Flourish

The Tarrawarra Museum of Art is set within a designed and constructed landscape. The setting is pretty and European, the vines of the winery, the European tree plantings and the long sweeping driveway to the Museum. The artificial and constructed landscape of outside is bettered inside with Kate Rhode’s presentation of the four seasons with her work ‘Flourish’. The installation is divided into four rooms 2 to the left, 2 to the right with a large picture window showing off the Yarra Valley opposite the room’s entrance. The vitrine is ofcourse a central piece of furniture in the scopophilic operation of the museum. The model for the modern museum is based upon the cabinets of curoisties or wunderkammers which first appeared in the mid 16th century. The early museums served as a repository of the exotic for the pleasure and to underscore the power of the rich, for they "symbolically conveyed the patron's control of the world." (Francesaco Fiorani) Kate Rohdes work participates in these discussions about the historical role of the museum and wealth in the context of her commission for Australia’s most prestigious private art museum owned by one of Australia’s richest families, the Besen family. In each of the rooms, an ornately decorated vitrine rests atop a plinth. The expoxy resin vitrines are replete with animals and birds of the known world, except they are formed with modern synthetic materials in colours apposite to our post-modern age. Counter posed are hand cut paper vines, much like one might have done at school as a child, decorate the walls and vitrines. Rohde’s winter vitrine is white snow and owls with white owls and rabbits. At the base of the vitrine are big scrunched up balls of butchers papers that pose as snow. The fecund spring vitrine features weasels and baskets of flowers. The manufacture of the birds and animals by the artist are not ‘anatomically correct’ they are wonderfully clumsy hand made approximates - or perhaps even hybrids. This is nature of the artist’s making is only loosely based on those made by God. This work is great fun. The artist's very own version of genetic engineering and hybridity is a great giggle for the audience and looks to have been great fun for the artist to make. The reference to the museum and the wunderkammer as an exercise of power by the rich is a lovely bit of cheek too.

By David O'Halloran

David O'Halloran

David O'Halloran is an Australian visual art curator of 25 years experience working with some of the country's most important visual arts organisations including the Biennale of Sydney, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Contemporary Art Services Tasmania, and the Adelaide Festival. For the Glen Eira City Council Gallery he has curated important exhibitions that surveyed the work of significant Australian artists, including Elizabeth Gower, John Dunkley-Smith, Jon Campbell, Jan Murray, Stieg Persson and Victor Mazjner. David O'Halloran fondly remembers a maxim drummed into students at art school - "you can be so open minded your brains fall out".