Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Sharon Green, Red Lounge (2003). Edi­tion 10/10. Mait­land Re­gional Art Gallery Col­lec­tion. On dis­play. For sev­eral months in 2009, Sharon Green lived with 80 live bee­tles in her small Lon­don flat while she filmed them for her mov­ing im­age work Cir­cu­lus Vi­tu­oso.

When I speak to Green, she ad­mits that she is “a bit ob­sessed with bee­tles”. While liv­ing with them, she says “I just let them walk around and I just let them cop­u­late. I was pluck­ing them off the cur­tains in the morn­ing.” She be­lieves bee­tles are cap­ti­vat­ing and have the abil­ity to both re­pel and en­tice. She also con­sid­ers them a fas­ci­nat­ing metaphor.

“The beauty of the bee­tle is en­tic­ing, but they are scav­enger crea­tures, they go af­ter rot­ting flesh and de­com­pos­ing wood and fruit, and so­cially we are con­di­tioned not to be cap­ti­vated by such a re­pul­sive crea­ture,” she states. “It’s like hav­ing a tug of war with your­self, be­ing drawn in and re­pelled at once. I like it when we find plea­sure in the ab­ject, and en­joy things we’re not sup­posed to.”

Green says her bee­tle ob­ses­sion started with Red Lounge, a pho­to­graph that feeds on fan­tasy, fetish and am­bi­gu­ity. In it, the woman is face­less and seem­ingly vul­ner­a­ble, with four bee­tles crawl­ing to­wards her splayed legs. As in many sur­re­al­ist images, the body is cropped to re­veal some­thing strange or dis­turb­ing. And as in a hor­ror movie, the viewer is left with a sense of un­ease about what comes next.

Red Lounge is in­dica­tive of much of Green’s work, which ex­plores an erotic and dan­ger­ous realm. In­flu­enced by the baroque pe­riod, her high-gloss pho­to­graphs of­ten ref­er­ence elab­o­rate or­na­men­ta­tion, sex and death.

Green, born in 1977 in Syd­ney, started learn­ing about pho­tog­ra­phy at high school when she was 13. “I quite quickly knew it was what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “I found the darkroom hyp­notic, a place of so­lace, and it also pro­vided a good hid­ing place for skip­ping lessons. I was, and still am, in love with the old-fash­ioned alchemy of pho­tog­ra­phy. It never loses its magic.”

Af­ter com­plet­ing her un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies in Bris­bane, Green moved to Lon­don in 2007, where she was ac­cepted into the Royal Col­lege of Art for a masters in pho­tog­ra­phy. She moved back to Bris­bane in 2009.

Red Lounge is on dis­play at the Mait­land Re­gional Art Gallery in NSW’s Hunter Val­ley. On a visit, I am shown the work by col­lec­tion man­age­ment cu­ra­tor Ch­eryl Farrell and former cul­tural di­rec­tor Joseph Eisen­berg, who tell me the work was do­nated by one of the gallery’s pa­trons, Pa­trick Cor­ri­gan.

Eisen­berg says the pho­to­graph, with its dark im­agery, is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of Green’s artis­tic prac­tice. “You are re­ally won­der­ing what is hap­pen­ing. Is the body alive? Is it dead? There is this jux­ta­po­si­tion of how the feet are, the way you can’t see the body at all, and those wretched in­sects,” he says.

Farrell de­scribes Red Lounge as a beau­ti­ful, lus­cious im­age. “I love the dark­ness of it, the in­trigue,” she says. “It’s dan­ger­ous, it’s some­thing mys­te­ri­ous and maybe some­thing hor­ri­ble. You can just stand in front of it and make up a story by your­self. It grabs you straight away. You put this up on the wall and peo­ple can’t walk past it.”

Cibachrome pho­to­graph; 91cm x 91cm

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