Three rising stars of Australian art boldly reclaim the representation of women’s bodies through a series of defiant and at times humorous artworks which simultaneously acknowledge and critique the influences of popular culture and mainstream beauty standards, in Bodywork – Fremantle Art Centre’s new exhibition.
Opening 6:30pm Friday 25 September, Bodywork brings together for the first time Kaylene Whiskey (SA), Amber Boardman (NSW) and Tarryn Gill (WA).
Featuring contorted soft sculptures, a video collage of female celebrity icons and fleshy paintings, Bodywork explores ideas connected to body modification, self-expression and female empowerment.
Kaylene Whiskey is a Yankunytjatjara artist who lives in the remote Aboriginal community of Indulkana in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in north-west South Australia. Whiskey is rapidly gaining national acclaim for her joyous, detailed paintings of strong kungkas (women). Heavily influenced by her surroundings, her paintings depict a mix of bush tucker and community life alongside music and screen idols. In Bodywork her works are playful, drenched with colour and feature celebrities like Dolly Parton, Tina Turner and Cher within her world on the APY Lands.
“I like to listen to rock music and Tina Turner, and I paint with really strong colours, I put in lots of the special details, and everyone likes it. I paint strong stories too, paintings about heaven and Jesus, and sometimes Mintabie (local mining town,) and paintings about my country Indulkana. Sometimes my paintings tell hard stories, but my paintings are always colourful and painting them makes me happy.” – Kaylene Whiskey
American-born, Sydney-based artist Amber Boardman has created a suite of large-scale oil paintings that blend humour, empathy and a critical eye. Drawing on her previous career as an animator, Boardman’s paintings in Bodywork depict morphing, leaking and changing bodies going through acts of extreme ‘self-care’, taking aim at the internet-based beauty ideals and the pressures of conformity women face in today’s social media age.
“I try to look at the normal things people do, but with a curious mind, and then I imagine ways I can characterise them. An example is my long-standing fascination with women’s beauty rituals and the industry around them. I think of the women I paint as artists who use makeup, spray tan, hair dye, plastic surgery, etc. as their art mediums.” – Amber Boardman
Perth artist Tarryn Gill has created her largest works to date for Bodywork, a series of large, voluptuous soft sculptures covered in glitzy dance fabrics. Drawing on a recent trip to Java, where she experienced the winding forms of the colossal Trembesi trees, and her background in competitive calisthenics, Gill’s contorted, multi-limbed feminine forms blend nature with the art of performance and continue her exploration of the uncanny body.
“The sculptures I make are hand-carved and hand-stitched and are made from sparkling, dance materials and trims, which are influenced by my experience doing calisthenics – I performed from when I was 5 to 25 years old. I’m assembling these materials now in a way that asserts their femininity and makes them darkly powerful in an uncanny way.” – Tarryn Gill
In presenting these rich series of works together Curator Erin Coates tells a powerful story in Bodywork. The exhibition is funny, at times perverse and ultimately empowering because it rejects the notion of one ideal female body.
“Bodywork offers audiences a rich and complex array of approaches to the ways we view our bodies. Kaylene, Amber and Tarryn come from strikingly different backgrounds yet their artworks each act to reclaim women’s bodies; as a site for celebration, self-expression and contestation,” Coates said.
“The exhibition imbues the body with uncanny power, the allure of celebrity and the absurdist humour of failed beauty regimes.”
Bodywork is curated by Erin Coates, FAC Acting Curator.