Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Craft's Answer to Ed Burtynsky

Nicola Hawkins in the studio with Junkosphere

There is a solo show titled Junkosphere up at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery that I desperately want to review.  It is a tour de force and the catalogue is beautiful but the essay falls short.  There is so much that needs to be said about this current work by Nicola Hawkins.

Nicola Hawkins first came to my attention in a solo show called Needle, Hook & Hammer at the Craft Council Gallery a few years back.  This exhibition contained largely functional objects that were made from repurposed materials and consumer waste.  There were colourful papier maché bowls from egg cartons that were gaily festooned with mandalas composed from Unico tomato can labels, hooked rugs from recycled clothing from thrift shops, and abandoned furniture entirely clad in pounded-out sections of cookie tins.  Hawkins took her inspiration from the villagers of India who, although poor, found the time and energy to elaborately decorate their homes and possessions.

Hawkins now has a high impact show at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, which explores themes such as global warming, over-consumption of natural resources and the wasteful disregard with which many lead their lives.  The majority of the works are epic 2D collages composed of magazine images that Nicola has painstakingly hand cut (photocopying images would be against her rules).  Two sculptural pieces also command attention.  One is a life-size red truck – a distant cousin to the earlier cookie tin clad furniture. The other is the Junkosphere, a mammoth globe of papier maché that can be turned by viewers pushing pedals.  The globe is littered with debris to illustrate the real life islands of junk that pollute our oceans.
Turning the Junkosphere
End of the Road (truck).  All photos are by Mark Bennett, courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery.

You couldn't ask for an exhibition with a better match for our times.  To be entirely honest, I first approached a "fine art" magazine with images of Nicola Hawkins work.  But the editor, said the work was too well resolved, too designerly for his publication.  And then it hit me like a ton of bricks that it was Nicky's crafts-sensibility or aesthetic that was working against her.  Personally, I think she is craft's answer to Ed Burtynsky -seducing the eye with composition and then making you sit with uncomfortable truths.

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