Post by Zoe Amber Preston.
Stepping into the current exhibition at Burrinja called, “A Wing and a Prayer” was like setting foot into a fantasy world. Walking around the space I found earth-like talismans, peculiar characters, miniature worlds and handmade sculptures inspired by various spiritual beliefs and religions. The exhibition included artworks by Joy Serwylo, Janine Sutton, Jenny Rowe and Lisa von Mueller.
The little characters in Joy’s miniature installations seem to be trapped in a world where the pressure of being perfect dominates their lives. My curiosity got the better of me as I peeped inside each artwork, discovering little gardens filled with topiary trees, animals made from moss, hanging birds, deformed crocodiles and little human-like characters. Experiencing the exhibition made me wonder what it would be like to exist in these tiny fictional worlds. Each little character seemed to be fighting to keep their microcosm in order, believing a better quality of life will be afforded to them if they do.
In a brief interview with Joy, she mentioned that the meaning behind her new series is that “we don’t need to have the perfect life in order to be happy. So many people strive for perfection, but I believe we don’t need perfection if we focus on the beauty of an authentic life.” As a child, Joy grew up creating beautiful artworks, but now in her 60’s she wants to create meaning and purpose behind her work in order to inspire others.
“On reflection, I feel that avoiding imperfection, and creating our own small worlds will only fill us with fear for what lies ahead. I want to encourage you to walk out your front door, climb over that hedge and escape your idea of misguided perfection. Happiness is found in our natural spontaneous lives, anything could happen when you just go with the flow!”
Alongside Joy’s inventive sculptural collages are delightful ceramic models by Jenny Rowe. Like before, I felt like her work has been lifted from a fantasy storybook, but this time from thousands of years ago. The early morning sun shone through the window, giving the characters a radiant and heavenly appearance alongside the tranquil faces. I could imagine the history and untold stories behind each of the characters. I felt calm and intrigued by Jenny’s display, focusing on the individuality of each sculpture, “Juju” amulets and ghost-like ceramic baby. As I stared at the hollow babies, I imagined them staring back at me despite the lack of eyeballs. The thought left me nervous, but even more curious!
I had mixed responses to Jenny’s work. Some of the characters represented looked calm and content whilst others looked hurt and fearful. I discovered that some suggested a happy co-existence between humans and animals, demonstrating that we are all connected.
“A Wing and a Prayer” explores spirituality and suggests ways we can live harmoniously with each other and nature, despite our different beliefs and lifestyles. It helped me gain a new understanding about religion and spirituality that has made a lasting impression on me.
The exhibition is on until the 28 September in the Jarmbi Downstairs Gallery at Burrinja, if you want to experience it yourself.
Review updated by Adriana Alvarez.
Janine Sutton’s work is a journey of discovering spirituality through cultural icons and the pop culture kitsch that surrounds us. Some paired down yet vibrantly painted, others laden with so much detail, you could spend ages looking to find the hidden treasure, toys and bling that is part of our modern existence. Her artists statement reveals the complicated thinking process that such a loaded subject as this would bring. Expressing the dilemma that spirituality and religion can often pose for us all.
Like Lisa Von Mueller, I am a huge fan of glossy magazines so I was drawn to Lisa’s work immediately. She has used collages of her old magazines to recreate medieval madonnas and saints into modern day idols to worship. The collages have then been printed onto silk and embellished here and there with some paint and beading work. Her modern take on these religious icons real and imagined bring to life in a modern sense the stories of worship and martyrdom of women who are scarred and tortured for their beliefs. These modern day saints have perhaps not come such a long way from their early counterparts and show us that the past is often repeating itself. And as always you have to fight for what you believe in.