What does it mean to be human? Allana Blizzard-Jones at Nolan Art Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre and Alyce Bailey, next door at Handmark Gallery, utilise relationships between man and beast to raise quite different questions about what it means to be human. Both artists create meticulous, hard-edged figures with minimal suggestion of solid form. There are no distracting backgrounds and the flattened picture space forces the viewer to engage with the image.
|Bellicose by Alyce Bailey; pen, ink, watercolour |
and shot gun holes on canvas; 92cm x 61cm
Having empathised with her vaguely bewildered animals with their odd, awkward, human hands, I admire the precise and delicate drawing set off by not-at-all-accidental dribbles and runs of paint, and the way occasional random patterns of holes in the canvas introduce a third dimension.
These are such gentle, sensitive works it comes as a shock to discover Bailey blazes away at her pictures with a shotgun!
There is nothing subtle or understated about the violence in Allana Blizzard-Jones' paintings – it's all there in raw, bleeding detail.
A regular participant in "zombie walks", Blizzard-Jones is experienced in using make-up to simulate suppurating, rotting flesh. Now she has employed various three-dimensional materials to create realistic-looking lesions on portraits of herself and friends, and the result is startling, to say the least.
There is a serious message beyond the initial shock; she is asking us to imagine what would happen if the Facial Tumour Disease threatening the Tasmanian Devil skipped species and infected humans. What if it created a population of hideous un-dead victims to attack the rest of us, passing on the infection?
Following the conventions of horror movies and comic books, Blizzard-Jones' agonised, afflicted figures are calculated to repel – and they do. These are supposedly real people losing their humanity, reverting to something beyond bestial, but we react with alarm and disgust rather than sorrow. The artist is obviously having fun, and the only sympathetic "portrait" in the show is of a placid, healthy Tasmanian Devil.
Bailey's animals, on the other hand, are her "responses to various experiences", reflecting her emotions and engaging ours. Her sad lion , uncertain cat , ambitious mouse and tentative bison are fragile animals trying so hard to become human, despite small daily disasters – and the odd shotgun blast.
|Gauche by Alyce Bailey; pen, ink and watercolour on canvas;|
110.0 x 152.0cm