This body is experiencing pleasure
Opening this Saturday 14 October 2023
1 pm – 3 pm RSVP
Following on from her major installation Forest summons (for Lilith), included in Melbourne Now 2023 at NGV Australia, Hannah Gartside has created 11 wall-based, works for her debut solo exhibition at Tolarno Galleries, using secondhand sequinned dresses, skirts and tops collected by her over a number of years.
Meticulously constructed from the material relics of all yesterday’s parties, these surreal and sensuous works are informed by a short story Gartside wrote about a young woman who is transformed into a moth after making herself a cocoon-like cloak.
Gartside’s textile alchemy evokes the absent bodies that slipped on these slinky party clothes and the memories they might have made – the places they went, the people they met, the songs they danced to.
Gartside is drawn to found textiles because they retain the lived experience – “the energy, glamour and enchantment” – of those they once belonged to.
“I use worn clothes as stand-ins for bodies – they are objects that have travelled through time and absorbed it,” says Gartside.
“I believe that along with absorbing the physicality of our bodies … clothes absorb our emotional experiences: yearnings, pains and delights,” she says.
Embedded in feminism and material culture, Hannah Gartside (born 1987, London, UK; currently based in Naarm/Melbourne) works across sculpture, installation and video.
Reimagining vintage and found textiles to create installations, sculptures and costumes, her skills of dress-making, patchwork quilting and fabric dyeing accrued during her former career as a theatre costumier at Queensland Ballet are elevated to the conceptually rigorous. Both deeply personal and fiercely communal, Gartside’s sensual and poetic works engage fundamental experiences and emotions of our human condition: longing, tenderness, connection, desire and wonderment.
I am fascinated with the potential connection between a viewer and an artwork. What could we ask of viewers beyond their attention, and as artists, what can we offer? What is possible when both artwork and viewer have skin in the game?
In this group of works (which I think of collectively under the name Gorgeous), I want to share the pleasure and delight that I feel in making art and in art being a form of communication and connection. I think of my art practice as a lover, one that is consistent, generous, surprising and true. So, in part this is a show of gratitude for this relationship.
These works consider the physical gallery space as an abstracted version of a lover’s body. The sculpture Wall Kisser is hand-cranked by the viewer. On turning the handle the wall receives the repetitive, kiss-thud, kiss-thud of the velvet hearts. The lamp light here is a way-finder, illuminating a rendezvous. The name for this imaginary place is ‘Gorgeous’. It’s spelt out in fabric, thread and paint, the font enlarged from a 1970s coat label.
Hannah Gartside 2023