Punching The Devil
Sept 5th - Sept 30th, 2009
A Solo Exhibition by Rodney Glick
New works from Rodney Glick’s Everyone series.
With these latest sculptures from his ongoing Everyone series, Rodney Glick presents us with a strange and intriguing cultural mix. The works are loosely based on Indian Hindu paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Glick has staged certain scenarios depicted in these paintings using Australian models, and these scenarios have then been photographed and digitally altered. The resulting manipulated images are exhibited as framed digital prints in their own right. These composite images also serve as source material for the Balinese woodcarvers and painters who have created these sculptures, with Glick providing direction and making the artistic decisions.
The skills employed in the creation of these works are superb. Made Leno, who has worked with Glick on his previous series of sculptures, has carved five of these works. Leno is a third generation woodcarver from the village of Kemenuh, South of Ubud. He learnt his craft at an early age from his father but also attended art school. Thanks to his training in life drawing at art school he has the ability to carve accurate representations according to Glick’s images. Although Leno and Glick are from cultures that could hardly be more different, and without a great deal of common language, a rapport has grown up between these two artists.
Rodney has also worked closely with two young painters, Wayan Darmadi and Dewa Tirtayasa. Both are art school graduates but they have also been influenced by traditional painting techniques which stress precision and scrupulous attention to detail. This combination of skills, and a keenness to learn and experiment has well equipped them to work with Glick on this project.
Viewers will initially be engaged and impressed by the consummate skill of these craftsmen, but this is not a display of technical skill for its own sake. Perhaps with all art it is the ideas that a work suggests that are most important, but for ideas to be expressed the physical form has to be appropriate. With these works there are deep ideas at work, and with such well-crafted, beautiful objects, we feel we are in the presence of something significant.
There is a strangeness about these works, and certainly an element of humour that comes from the surprising juxtaposition of ancient Hindu subject matter with contemporary models. But these are not mere parodies, and there is certainly no intention to mock or make fun of an ancient belief system. Rather, by mixing cultures, by combining religious and secular, and by referencing art from a different age and culture, something universal is implied.
Non-Hindus are surprised to discover that Hindu gods and goddesses, while being divine, also manifest the fears, doubts and other psychological states that constitute our own characters. And just as the gods might share our human frailties, so we share in their divinity. This leads to tolerance, and a religion that has lasted for thousands of years. The idea that all people, however powerful or humble, are special and somehow united in some sort of common humanity underlies Glick’s rapidly growing Everyone series. In the light of these comments, we can look more closely at just a few of these works, not to “translate” them or reveal their “meaning”, but to suggest some ideas they might engender.
An early Indian painting of Krishna and his consort Radha was the starting point for Everyone No.83 which shows a pair of lovers cloaked in lotus petals. Krishna, friend to the heroic Pandawas brothers from the Mahabarata, and an incarnation of the great god Wisnu, has consummated his love for Radha but then, according to Indian sources, went through a period of “wanton play” with a series of beautiful cowherd girls. Hearing of his infidelity Radha overcomes intense jealousy and in time returns to become his consort and eventually to share his divine status. Even without knowing the background to this work, we might look at this representation of idealised love and wonder if all is as it seems, what emotions are the lovers concealing and what will happen when the petals fade and drop?
In Everyone No. 35 we see a middle aged man wearing jeans and a jumper, an average suburban dad perhaps – except that he has eight arms and is sitting on a finely decorated white bull. In his four right hands he brandishes knives dripping with blood, in his four left hands he holds miniature corpses. The ordinary suburban dad has been transported to a different realm beyond time and place; he is with the gods, but also he has become everyone. Perhaps, we are thinking, he feels wronged, frustrated, angry and bent on revenge. Perhaps, but if so, what then? He is only experiencing what others have experienced through time, and what even the gods have experienced. So paradoxically we see him both as mundane and somehow noble, as ordinary as we all are but as special as those who created us.
Universal themes are also present in Everyone No.64. We see a beautiful young woman wielding blood-soaked knives, a severed head and a bowl of blood. She stands astride a corpse that lies supine but aroused on a burning funeral pyre. The blood from the bowl she is holding drips onto the corpse. Again the strange imagery takes us into a different realm, to a world of ancient gods and goddesses who act out, without our inhibitions, the primeval emotions that have existed throughout time. The woman is based on an early Indian image of Kali. Dark and alluring, Kali is a manifestation of Durga. Associated with death, she lurks in cremation grounds, but death also brings rebirth and a cycle of renewal. The woman depicted here is in a position of total domination but she also brings life; she is powerful and terrifying, but at the same time desirable and arousing. Paradoxes such as this will always confuse and cause anxiety, but perhaps what we can learn is that we cannot deny emotional states that have existed since before time. The best we can do is seek acceptance and strive for some sort of balance.
There are many aspects to Glick’s new works and these comments reflect just one viewer’s response. But it can be suggested that these sculptures, and the other works from the Everyone series, seduce us through the fineness of their form and the skill of their making; they intrigue us because of the mix of ancient and modern, religious and secular, Eastern and Western; and finally invite us to confront deep and basic states of mind that we all experience but that we might prefer to leave concealed. And we might find some comfort in knowing that the states of mind we share with the rest of humanity we also share with the gods.
Everyone No. 64
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Carved and painted wood
70 x 100 x 42 cm