The Penny Drops
Official Opening Friday 9th March 2007
6:00 – 8:00pm
“People ask me why I only paint women.
It’s the flux.
It’s the nonsense and the folly.
I have a persistent desire to document this, and if it seems a bit ‘mammoths and bison’ on a cave wall, it probably is. I am trying to freeze a moment in time and make it mine.”
Abbey McCulloch, December 2006
Five years on from first showing her paintings with Schubert Contemporary, the visual impact of Abbey McCulloch’s work is no less dramatic. Its essential appeal lies in the acuity of her perception and the utter candour of its translation into art. The familiar doe-eyed damsels continue to pose, pout and sneer but there is now a keener edge to her insight: “I want my work to say something of the culture that consumes images of youth and trades innocence as commodity. The ‘doe-eyed’ thing is mostly about the fact these girls are aware that they are being observed.” In blurring the distinction between innocence and awareness Abbey is referencing the Japanese concept of ‘Kawaii’ - that cult of cuteness which so disarmingly gives access to the shadowland behind appearances.
Having grown up on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Abbey McCulloch initially drew inspiration from observing the self-conscious bravado of nymphets venturing out into the “culturally uninhibited” lifestyle of its beaches, nightclubs and shopping malls. From her studio at Burleigh Heads, she reflects on how recent trips to the USA and France have profoundly affected her outlook and work: “Nothing could live up to the image America perpetuates of itself. I was both overwhelmed and disappointed. The French are the antidote to the lure of Americana. Visiting France last year I realized how they nourish the divinely uncomplicated. It gave me answers that I was looking for elsewhere and it made me want to develop a better relationship with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of all this, the penny dropped. My work is still about women and the mysterious, erratic creatures they are but I’ve loosened my grip on the paint and have discovered more of myself in the process.”
Although feminine contrariness continues to intrigue, Abbey now feels impelled to: “expose the making of the work - to tap new methods of expression and push the materials further.” The characteristic linear energy prevails but increasingly, truncated silhouettes and small disembodied, mask-like faces are being introduced to suggest enigma. High-keyed colours seem simultaneously absorbed and deflected by the layered, intensely matte grounds. “In these works I have avoided anything too representational - it’s really all about using paint to articulate. I can’t resist the vitality of the painted surface, it’s primal I’m sure.”
In setting the context for her upcoming exhibition with Schubert Contemporary, Abbey confides: “I’m still haunted a little by my trip to the States but much of the grime has now fallen away. I think I prefer the somewhat idealistic, simplified version of America in the 50’s - where truth could be hidden beneath a veneer of red lipstick, A-line skirts and lime spiders on the patio. For this show I wanted to conjure up the ‘glamazons’ of that era in a kind of ‘home-maker freak show’ set against a backdrop of chalky linoleum.”
Abbey McCulloch has a Bachelor of Fine Art (Painting) degree from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane and is currently enrolled in a Research Masters degree, QCA. Given the wide, subjective appeal of her paintings and multiple, enormously successful solo shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and the Gold Coast, it is little wonder that her work is regularly featured in such glossy magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Black and White, Frankie, Oyster and Australian Vogue.
Back to Abbey McCulloch's Exhibition Page
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