THE DISTANCE BETWEEN PUSHING AND PULLING
Selena De Carvalho Moonah Arts Centre Until December 22
Selena De Carvalho has been polishing an artistic voice over the last few years, developing a working method and creating an aesthetic that derives from personal ethics and experience. Previous shows from her have been interesting in the very least — and often more than that. She has shown a passion for a kind of work that is informed by environmental activism. That in itself is not unusual, particularly in Tasmania, but where De Carvalho differs is in her avoidance of didacticism: her art does not rant. It takes you by the hand and suggests there is something that we need to talk about.
Perhaps De Carvalho’s greatest tool is a surprising use of intimacy. Her multimedia installation Beware of Imposters, a central work of this new exhibition, is designed to engage with one person at a time. You enter a dark room, sit at a desk, and listen on headphones as the artist whispers. Eventually, you are guided to an opportunity for personal participation and have the chance to take part in a recording process that will ultimately be played to a particular plant. I wondered whether the art was for me or for the plant, and then decided it was probably for both. De Carvalho is trying to forge an emotional link from one life to another, perhaps with the aim of creating a more connected response from the human realm.
While this work is the one where the intimate is realised in the most complex and impressive manner, this tactic of personal interaction with the audience is used through the show. We are asked to open a box and touch and smell leaves adorned with gold, or wear headphones made of seashells and listen to that whispering, trickling sound, which we were told as children was the sea itself.
An aesthetic emerges as you explore the work. De Carvalho looks at the patterns and sounds of the natural world and considers the effects of the interactions between humans and nature, be that a recording of a melting glacier or the beautiful corruption of chipping paint and rust on the decaying body of a car. We’re asked to look and listen, and given ways to respond with emotion. This is easy enough to do, because the artist herself has poured so much emotional content into the work.
This is a pleasing show that marries sophisticated technological techniques with rich storytelling and sensitive observations to create a series of works that shimmer with a wet, fertile beauty. De Carvalho is clearly an artist to watch, as the biggest thrill here is how strongly she is realising her ideas, and how her ability increases with each new outing.
Join Selena De Carvalho for an artist talk today at 1pm at MAC.