Lauren Lysaght: Big Deal

The politics of the art world are interesting to those in the know, but what about the politics and issues of our everyday lives? The what-the-hell questions of government policy. The OMG how-did-he-get-away-with-that issues of the legal system. The eye rolling over the back-handers and handshakes of local body politics. The FFS cussing about the [health] system—but you can insert education/finance/justice/transport here.

  • Opening Date: Tuesday, 20 October 2015
  • Closing Date: Sunday, 8 November 2015
  • Opening Time: Tues to Fri 11-5pm, Sat 11-4pm

Backscratchers and business cards

The politics of the art world are interesting to those in the know, but what about the politics and issues of our everyday lives? The what-the-hell questions of government policy. The OMG how-did-he-get-away-with-that issues of the legal system. The eye rolling over the back-handers and handshakes of local body politics.  The FFS cussing about the [health] system-but you can insert education/finance/justice/transport here.

Lauren Lysaght has never shied away from questions of this sort. Her work has often traversed political territories-gender politics, feminism, justice and fairness-with community projects and objects that vibrate with the sheer joy of making but also question received 'wisdom'. I'm thinking of Trifecta (2003), the Cinderella coach embodying the delusions of gambling; A Guilty Party (2008), the table spread with inedible dishes covered with the globe of the world; the When you put a shell to your ear series (2003) that lampoons the ad world; and many many more.

She has a sensitive bullshit detector that constantly notices material for new work. Ideas and words rattle around to eventually become objects that totemize the lunacies of contemporary life in a visually satisfying and often mysterious way.

The twelve works in Big Deal are no exception. They take on white colour crime, a favourite Lysaght subject, in a series of visual puns. The exhibition is 'inspired' by the ironies of the business world-the financial 'advisors' who embezzle clients' money, the players in the global financial crisis and the get-rich schemes like Ponzi scheme. St Ponzi patron saint of all swindlers (2015) is a St Sebastian-esque bust in a balaclava or gimp-mask. White arrows pierce a black skull. He's attractive but sinister; an unlucky bandit caught in the act and made an example of.

Big Deal is also about the mixed messages of capitalism. A friend once dated a man who'd made a fortune on racehorses. She relayed his explanation about making money and I understood for the first time that capitalism is actually about gambling. Investing is a euphemism for gambling. And we collectively tut-tut and tsk-tsk 'problem' gamblers when gambling or 'futures trading' is actively encouraged in the economic framework in which we operate.

Bigdealbeingdone (2015) a series of white collars on studded blocks gather in a little flock on plinths in the gallery-a visual metaphor for the accountants/administrators/lawyers in crisp shirts and fancy suits who continue to do 'business' in the name of economic progress. There's something very Lloyds of London about these boys. I can almost hear them snorting and laughing with entitlement as they do their futures trading.

In contrast, the media are constantly hounding beneficiaries and poor people about their poverty. The poor are reprimanded for not saving or for spending their money on the wrong things. Like there's anything to spare. I can't help but think of a man interviewed on TV during last election's coverage, a construction worker in tears with the effort of keeping his family afloat.

But there's wit in Big Deal too. Payola, Backhander, and Golden Handshake (2015) are made out of back-scratchers. The claws of the backscratchers have become suited arms with white hands clutching briefcases. And from out of the briefcases big black tongues roll down the wall. It's a clever pun. Scratch the surface of back-scratching in the business world and whole structures become exposed-structures in which rich men and their friends collude to make more money, and look after each other's backs. They are friends in politics, in the police, in the judiciary and they look out for each other-like the TV series 'The Wire' and all the rottenness that exposes.

The Mr Icarus series, Mr S.W Anky, Mr A.V. Arice, and Mr H. Ubris (2015), take the shape of shoulder armour. The titles suggest a falling to Earth, a tumble from grace. But these works also represent Lauren's sculptural robustness. The day we discussed them, she talked about a sense of refinement she was trying to avoid. As a 'mature' artist at the height of her powers, the works can't help but reflect her experience as a maker. However she is attracted to the idea of the work devolving to retain the rawness and energy of her interests.

She talks about making 'nana art'-works from freely available ready-made objects and materials that are stitched and crafted employing methods that women have used forever. The objects themselves are an important metaphor in the works (the backscratchers, the business card tins, and the white collars) bringing together materials, methods, and subjects so that every element contributes a sense of the political.

So Big Deal. The title is of course a double entendre signaling Lauren's signature cynicism and humour but with a serious flipside. Yet there's sympathy in these works for 'the stuffed shirts' and 'the suits'. They're caricatured but also eyed with some compassion. It's good to be able to sleep at night.

Mary-Jane Duffy, October 2015.

 

 

 

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