SCHUBERT   Art Galleries Schubert   CONTEMPORARY

ERIKA GOFTON

"Shhh..."

Official Opening Friday 5 December 2008   6 - 8pm

Exquisitely crafted, Erika Gofton’s pictures conjure a yearning for that which has past - a world gone by and now accessible only in reveries, memories and dreams. These are works encompassing strange, indefinite spaces where all sound and movement has stilled... ‘shhhh’d’ into a contemplative silence. 

Our gaze lingers upon young women clad in pristine, vintage lingerie: silky-soft it clings and falls over the contours of their bodies. The visual narratives are at once open and closed, and as enigmatic as the ritual-like gestures of the figures’ hands. Perfect, pearlescent skin seems bath-warm and fragrant, contradicting any faint memories we may have of antique fabrics in musty, airless rooms. Stasis and movement co-exist in a visual rhythm, alternately lulling and heightening the senses. The profusive detail in the lace-trimmed gowns and the exotic wallpapers is mesmerising, yet the compositions themselves are elegantly uncomplicated. Homogeneously patterned panels, minimal use of perspective and for the most part, frontally presented figures contribute to the overall sense of quietude. 

The mother of a curious four year old, Erika Gofton acknowledges the difficulty in striking a balance between motherhood and being an artist: “... but you just do what you have to do I guess, and I couldn’t imagine life without either. I really feel like this body of work is reflective of my current environment and life. I see it as being very still and calm - quiet, like a breathe, but with an underlying tension.” Intimations of restraint and containment may be evidenced in the bird motifs in some of her wallpaper patterns. Since time immemorial it was believed that birds had the ability to carry ‘the soul aloft’ into other dimensions. Gradually, winged-creatures became allegorically associated with thoughts and ideas which need freedom in order to be expressed. Gofton’s wallpaper-birds are ‘astir’ within their two dimensional entrapments. Silhouette-like, they emerge fitfully to eventually take flight as beautiful, full-bodied beings. It is imagery which extends the ethos of her earlier, ‘paper-doll chain’ series where rudimentary, cut-out figures symbolized familial continuity and her own formative, childhood days.

The young Melbourne-based artist travelled through France, Italy and England researching the notion of femininity and its representation in art through the ages: “I am intrigued with the subtlety between the sensual and the sexual... the culturally constructed definition of gender...” Erika Gofton is also interested in exploring crafts traditionally regarded as feminine pastimes: dressmaking, lacemaking and embroidery, among others. She pays homage to those activities by assimilating their practice into her own work - and not only as visual references - certain shapes are enhanced by actual hand-stitching! 

Essentially, Erika Gofton’s paintings are important for their poetic sensibility - that remote, precious quality that transcends time and place. It is as if a spell has been cast and with a hushed, slow grace the viewer is given access to a different realm.

JACQUELINE HOUGHTON  

Bibliography: Born in Hobart, Tasmania 1971; Diploma of Education Secondary Visual Arts, University of Tasmania 1996; Diploma of Education Secondary Visual Arts, University of Tasmania 1995; Study tour of Europe, 2006; Portrait workshop with Marvin Mattelson, New York 2006; Short listed for the Toyota Career Development Award 2006; Finalist in Mosman Art Prize 2006; Finalist Smorgon Steel Contemporary Art Prize 2006; Highly Commended Smorgon Steel Contemporary Art Prize 2004; Finalist Smorgon Steel Contemporary Art Prize 2003; Finalist Redlands Westpac Art Prize Mosman Gallery 2001; Finalist Darebin-Latrobe Art Prize, Bundoora Homestead 2001; Runner-up Atelier Acrylic Art Award 1989; Loughrans Art Award 1989.

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