Damien Minton Gallery
Love Rug and Other Objects
First published Imprint Magazine, summer Vol 45, No 4, p. 16, Print Council of Australia
Pia Larsen’s recent exhibition at Damien Minton’s reveals her passion for metal: its surface, its malleability and its resistance. Pia presents 4 bodies of work which are interconnected but quite different in their formal and visual outcomes. It is the group of works entitled “Love Rug” which holds the clue for me in uncovering the conceptual underpinnings of Pia’s work.
“Love Rug” is based on a detailed map of the human erogenous zone. Pia has enlarged and interpreted an anatomical diagram to create a richly textured and detailed topography on a single sheet of zinc. What is compelling about this plate is the quality of mark making and meshing of tone, line and form which reveals Pia’s consummate understanding of metal and how far it can be manipulated in the acid bath. This piece really does reveal the fascination with texture and surface and the intrinsic paradox of the etching process. Printmakers are often on a search for lush blacks, velvety tones and sinuous black lines. All these words which are used to describe sought after qualities in a print resonate with sensuousness, softness and flexibility. Metal is hard, resistant, cold and unbending. Pia is able to transform the metal utilising the alchemy of etching to create a surface that seems to throb and breathe and is all about touch.
Each of the bodies of work in the exhibition participates in a dialogue set up by the artist in their installation. There are a series of polarities that emerge on consideration of the works. “Sweep” is a large installation set up in the middle of the gallery space that operates as a vortex and also a conversational focus in the space. This sculpture is suspended steel rod and contains a mass of loops and haphazard shapes that evolve into longer sweeping strands. The piece evokes thoughts of movement, line in space, scale and three dimensionality. “Sweep” works as a strong contrast to the “Love Rug” series which includes the lush metal plate described above and printed rugs on vibrant pink grounds. These rugs are flat metal, textured surface confidently, overwhelmingly flat.
In the series “Script”, body interiors are transformed into fragments of text. There is a strong contrast operating between “Script” and the “Make Words” series. In “Script” the language flows, suggesting feeling, and an interiority. One senses an internal space being gently revealed. These flat metal sculptures are pierced with flowing lines that can be read as text or appreciated simply as line. The arabesque of the lines connects to the arabesque of the steel rods in “Sweep”. The piercing connects the back to the front disrupting the integrity of the surface, to suggest layers of meaning and interpretation. There is an austerity in the metal pieces: cold, grey, black and tonal that works in strong contrast to the hot pinks of “Love Rug” and the playful palette of the folded paper works “Make Words”.
“Make Words” and “Word” have a strong geometric structure derived from the folded paper forms that created the shapes in soft ground. These structures morph into words in a diagrammatic way. The texture subtly suggests concealment, wrapping and surface, another interesting conversation can occur between the cursive “Script” and the structured “Words”.
The works in this exhibition reveal Pia’s ongoing fascination with the multiple discourses generated in consideration of the body. The visual and conceptual dialogues that are apparent between the groups of works is a complex conversation in which ideas are not in conflict but add to a richer, layered understanding of the way we inhabit and understand our bodies. The interference or insertion of scientific knowledge on our perception of self through our bodies is an idea that is embedded in these suites of objects and prints.
The works reveal an ongoing frisson that operates between curiosity and repulsion in our fascination with the interior body. There is a pleasurable play between fact and invention, the rational and irrational in Pia’s strong visual exploration of her themes.
Head of Printmaking Studio
National Art School