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ROSIE DEACON

COCKATOO CAVERN FEVER


ROSIE DEACON

COCKATOO CAVERN FEVER

12 April – 16 June 2019 Perc Tucker Regional Gallery


PUBLISHER Perc Tucker Regional Gallery

Published on the occasion of

ROSIE DEACON

Galleries, Townsville City Council PO Box 1268 Townsville Queensland, 4810 Australia ptrg@townsville.qld.gov.au ©Galleries, Townsville City Council and the authors 2019 ISBN: 978-0-949461-31-5 ORGANISED BY Perc Tucker Regional Gallery Jonathan McBurnie Erwin Cruz Claire Griffiths Lucy Belle Tesoriero Sarah Reddington Nicole Richardson Leonardo Valero Emily Donaldson Jo Lankester Tanya Tanner Rachel Cunningham Jake Pullyn Michael Favot Wendy Bainbridge Chloe Lindo Teagan Jackson Amy Licciardello Vicki Saylor

Creative Director Senior Exhibitions Officer Senior Education and Programs Officer Curatorial Assistant Education and Programs Officer Education and Programs Assistant Exhibitions Officer Exhibitions Officer Collections Management Officer Public Art Officer Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Gallery Assistant Business Support Officer Gallery Administation Officer

CONTACT

Perc Tucker Regional Gallery Cnr. Denham and Flinders St Townsville QLD 4810 Mon - Fri: 10am - 5pm Sat - Sun: 10am - 2pm

(07) 4727 9011 ptrg@townsville.qld.gov.au whatson.townsville.qld.gov.au PercTuckerTCC

COCKATOO CAVERN FEVER Perc Tucker Regional Gallery 12 April – 16 June 2019 Contributing Authors Jonathan McBurnie Mia Timpano Artwork Photography Zan Wimberley Jessica Maurer Silversalt Document Photography Publication Design and Development Carly Sheil Typefaces Akagi Pro by Neil Summerour; KG HAPPY by Kimberly Geswein Image previous page: Rosie Deacon Cockie Concoction 2018 Mixed media; resin, glitter, fabric, plastic gems, taxidermy cockatoo, timber, acrylic paint, confetti Photography: Zan Wimberley Cover image: Rosie Deacon Budgie Ears 2018 Ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 40 cm Photography: Zan Wimberley


CONTENTS FOREWORD

Jonathan McBurnie

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IT’S YOUR PARTY 14 Mia Timpano

INDEX 28

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FOREWORD JONATHAN MCBURNIE

There is an 80s and early 90s Australiana aesthetic that is hard to describe; a fluorescent that strobes somewhere in the connective tissue between Muriel’s Wedding, Kylie Minogue, Peter Russell Clarke, Australis, and seminal children’s television programming such as Mulligrubs, Agro’s Cartoon Connection, and The Ferals. It’s hard to describe because, for those growing up in this era, like Rosie Deacon, it is a feeling as well as an aesthetic; it is a look, a vibe, a sense, that lingering trace of memory that is possibly as much as a construction as it was a series of observations and experiences. It’s Australiana before Australiana was to be cringed at, and it exists somewhere orbiting the cultural miasma of Midnight Oil wearing fluoro pink coveralls on stage, Bob Hawke’s ‘Australia’ jacket*, and that bright yellow zinc cream smeared across the lips of various mustachioed cricketers, absorbed by our young minds via osmosis through Rage, morning cartoons, and Sega. It’s a version of Australia that doesn’t really exist, and probably never did, but we remember it that way. It’s a fuzzy construct, refracted through a thousand episodes of Neighbours, reconstituted in a vat of Chiko Roll pulp, and served to you by none other than Agro and E-Street era Toni Peren.

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After Ken Done, I think that Rosie Deacon is the most Sydney artist working in Sydney, and I mean that as a deeply sincere compliment, which is somewhat contradictory, because sincerity automatically makes her and Mr Done both the most un-Sydney artists in Sydney. Confused? Think of it this way: Deacon’s work is fun, playful, sincere, bright, and immersive; everything that Sydney represented in days gone by, and now everything the Sydney art crowd actively avoids but are secretly obsessed with (sincerity? No thanks). Perhaps my attraction to Deacon’s work is that of a Queenslander, viewed by the cool and moneyed Sydney eye as provincial dag, drawn to characteristics it recognizes in itself; brightness never goes out of style up here, and generally speaking, we don’t take ourselves so seriously as our southern counterparts. One of the most exciting aspects of Deacon’s work is its refusal to be pigeonholed. Deacon’s work itself incorporates aspects of installation, sculpture, soft sculpture, jewelry, painting, video, and even performance, to create her work in a variety of contexts. If it fires Deacon’s imagination, she will go there. I first met this very un-Sydney Sydney artist in Sydney a few years back and immediately began trying to unravel the ball of bright orange wool that runs between each component of Deacon to her art and her history; in another twist to my somewhat convoluted introduction, Deacon isn’t from Sydney at all, which actually makes a lot of sense. We began to have some great discussions about art early on, one such discussion snagging in my memory, about the Sydney art scene itself, and her struggles with it. Some naysayers (who shall remain nameless)

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were reproaching the artist for being so wholehearted with her many projects, suggesting that people would not take her seriously without a more calculated approach (read: find representation, only show in this gallery and that, invite the ‘correct’ people, etc etc). This always smacked of hypocrisy to me; only the well-off can afford to exist solely through a commercial gallery anymore, and as such, much of the art we are told is good art is rendered toothless, a kind of empty Sunday painting for wealthy stay-at-home Balmain mums. Deacon has no such self-imposed limitations, and is more than happy to give 150% to a project, whether it is a major solo show at a top gallery, or a small pop-up shop in an obscure town. This kind of energy and love opens doors, for Deacon has exhibited frequently; recently being featured at Underbelly Arts Festival, Campbelltown Art Space, Umbrella Studio’s Pop Up North Queensland festival, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, the MCA Art Bar, and fresh from her inclusion in the Museum of Old and New Art’s Mona Foma festival, complete with catwalk (or in this case a better name may be ‘possum walk’). I am thrilled that Perc Tucker Regional Gallery is to host her first solo exhibition in Queensland. Jonathan McBurnie Creative Director, Galleries * I would like to note that if you type ‘Bob Hawke Au’, Google will autofill your search to ‘Bob Hawke Australia jacket’ before anything else, including ‘Bob Hawke Australia’ or ‘Bob Hawke Australian Prime Minister’.

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IT’S YOUR PARTY MIA TIMPANO

Remember kids’ birthday parties? Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you were that one kid who Andrew Coleman didn’t invite to his birthday party, so you were left wondering what was so weird about you that you should be excluded from his gathering. But you, you didn’t bother asking, that would have been too confronting for you both. You just stayed silent while the rest of the class – the other 20 odd kids – geared up for the event of grade one. You discovered solitude; they discovered euphoria. Adult parties don’t reach the giddying heights of children’s parties. Sure, you can take all the drugs you want, have sex, order pizza and garlic bread, and brag about your career – but none of these things really compare to the joy of playing pass the parcel when you’re eight. You spend the rest of your life trying to attain that same rapturous feeling. You won’t. Probably. Because you don’t experience emotion the way you do when you’re younger. Children’s feelings are total. They don’t have sufficient life experience to know – or, indeed, care – that there are other times to be had, that not being invited to Andrew Coleman’s birthday party isn’t a social death sentence.

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Rosie Deacon remembers children’s parties, and is channelling those all-consuming emotions in her latest creation, Cockatoo Cavern Fever. She can’t help it; she wants everyone to have a good time – for everyone to be part of this big, fuckoff bird party, inspired by the flora and fauna she encountered on her last visit to Townsville. It’s not an installation, but a world, featuring taxidermy cockatoos (acquired from an auction house lot sale in Sydney, where Deacon now resides), and, in classic Deacon style, myriad fabrics and sculptures: countless birds, countless koalas, and countless other hand-crafted creations, all of which cluster around a timber and resin framework, providing the cavern with its structural integrity. It always starts small for Deacon – in this case, with the remembered image of cockatoos in Townsville’s trees. From there, it grows and grows, bits and pieces attaching themselves to the initial idea: 12 cockatoos; 14 lorikeets; entire families of wildlife and toys, collected in the manner of, say, Yowie toys (miniature plastic endangered creatures encased in Cadbury chocolate – a young Deacon favourite) in their own purpose-built environment – where the purpose is connected to both the joy of sharing, as per the kids’ party experience, and Deacon’s desire to create a safe environment.

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True, safety may seem at odds with the psychedelic colour palate synonymous with Deacon’s work; surely safety is white and padded. But compulsively making the elements of Cockatoo Cavern Fever brings Deacon a sense of calm. This is a creature-filled world that echoes her world growing up in rural New South Wales, with her cherished collections of animal toys (Yowies and the like) along with her collections of real, living animals. Unlike the world of her childhood, however, everything is set in place; nothing bad will happen. Deacon is in control of the seeming chaos – as opposed to in reality, where bad things certainly can and certainly will happen. Like watching a plastic tub full of white mice wilt and die. Deacon couldn’t stop the mice from dying. She’d bred them and was on her way to sell them to the pet shop. But it was a hot day, that particular day in the 1990s, and her parents’ Tarago was functioning as a rotisserie. Slowly, she saw mice in the bucket die from the heat. Then more died. Then they all died. (Well, just about. A few still vied for life in this tiny version of hell.) The next pitstop: her nan and pop’s house, where they set the bucket of deceased mice in the garage. Still processing the vision of a bucket-load of mice baked to death, Deacon then saw someone knock the bucket over; dead mice were strewn everywhere in the garage.

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Oh, and then there was the bunny experience. Deacon took to breeding rabbits as a kid – but did you know that once bunnies grow past a certain age (specifically, six weeks old) they aren’t cute anymore and nobody wants to buy them and therefore they must proceed to the fluffy afterlife? Now you do. The anxiety stemming from failing to sell her bunnies still lives on in Deacon’s consciousness. Every few months she has the same dream of rabbits filling cages. Baby bunnies, all different colours – pink, purple, blue – press against the sides of the cage, unable to move, a Skittles rainbow filter cast over the horrors of the past. The dark humour in these tales isn’t lost on Deacon. On the contrary, she’s acutely aware of it, and allows herself to re-discover this darkness while making her art – hence why her sculptures can appear grotesque. Scary, even. But this darker side isn’t just Deacon’s way of coping with freaky recurring nightmares (although yes, it does achieve that, too). In its own way, this ugliness is a tribute to ‘Aussie-ness’: our penchant for dark humour, our ‘she’ll be right’ mantra (which plays on Deacon’s mind, and, for her, strikes an off note). Indeed, it’s as much a part of ‘Australia’ as the cockatoo.

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But why so much crafting? Why use toys, bits of ‘junk’, and children’s craft materials to build this simultaneously wonderful, slightly unnerving and carefully curated world? Visit Deacon’s old hometowns, the regional communities of Bathurst and Wagga Wagga, and you’d get it. Drive through the streets and witness the behemoth letterbox resembling an emu, made from steel drums. Witness the tyre swans in the gardens. This is a community competitive about their homemade Christmas decorations – and we’re not talking about draping fairy lights over the verandah. We’re talking about making life-size reindeer from random materials and posing them so that they appear to be flying out of a painted ute, mounted onto haystacks. Almost Mad Max-like in their tradition of repurposing and re-welding tractor parts and found objects from the farm in this outback environment (Deacon’s mum, in fact, attends a weekly women’s welding class), nothing is off-limits when it comes to the rural Australian approach to art-making. Which makes sense, given that you’re not in the city, where you can – at least, in theory – buy whatever you want. Plus, country life can be, well, boring. No wonder walks on Deacon’s grandparents’ farm would result in her nan picking up a stick and observing how, with a little paint and a little crafting, it could look just like a willie wagtail.

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But now that Deacon calls Sydney home (for now, at any rate), the making traditions of her past have encountered the city’s custom of glamming up, and her art, in this way, has grown up, got a little more sparkle – but all the same heart. Those feelings, those deep-down, intense feelings of wanting to throw a party, to celebrate, these are the drivers of Cockatoo Cavern Fever. Everything you see, touch, inspect, ponder, it’s all been made with excitement, with the thrill of bringing it to you. This environment does not exist purely to appease Deacon’s interests or lingering anxieties. It is a gift to Townsville. You, you are not excluded. Not this time. Not ever again. You are invited.

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INDEX

Page 3 Budgie Ears 2018, ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 40 cm. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 8, 9 Bit Fat in Da Back 2017, mixed media installation, dimensions variable; installation image from exhibition Good Neighbours, Artbank Sydney, Waterloo, Sydney, 29 June – 6 October 2017. Photography: Jessica Maurer Page 10 Koala Beach 2018, ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 32 cm. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 12, 13 Tree Top Tweety Bird Pop Egg Design Living 2018, mixed media installation, dimensions variable; installation image from exhibition Suburbia, a collaborative exhibition between Rosie Deacon and Studio Artist Emily Crockford, Project Space, Cement Fondu, Paddington, Sydney, 15 March – 29 April 2018. Photography: Document Photography Page 14, 15 Studio Assemblage 2019, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 16, 17 Bargain Basement Kanga Kave 2015, mixed media installation and performance; image from Performance Contemporary, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, Carriageworks, Sydney, 10 – 13 September 2015. Page 18, 19 Cocky Concoction [detail] 2018, mixed media; resin, glitter, fabric, plastic gems, taxidermy cockatoo, timber, acrylic paint, confetti. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 20, 21 Installation image from exhibition Fun Foam Fantastical Fabulous Fun, Firstdraft, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, 4 - 20 November 2015. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 23 Koala Cheer 2018, ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 30 cm. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 24, 25 Cocky Concoction [detail] 2018, mixed media; resin, glitter, fabric, plastic gems, taxidermy cockatoo, timber, acrylic paint, confetti. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 26, 27 Studio Assemblage [detail] 2019, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 28, 29 Installation image from exhibition Ab-Fab-Collab, Way Out West Festival, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Casula, Sydney, 13 – 16 July 2016.

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Page 30, 31 Studio Assemblage [detail] 2019, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 32, 33 Fish Dish 2018, mixed media installation and performance; installation image from Museums and Galleries NSW Public Galleries Summit Dinner, Curated by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, along with Louise Zhang and Jason Phu. Photography: Document Photography Page 34 Budgie Ears 2018, ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 40 cm. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 36, 37 Bit Fat in Da Back 2016, mixed media and video installation performance; video still from VIDEO OEDIV, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown, Sydney, 16 January - 20 March 2016. Videography: Sam James Page 38, 39 Cocky Concoction [detail] 2018, mixed media; resin, glitter, fabric, plastic gems, taxidermy cockatoo, timber, acrylic paint, confetti. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 40, 41 Kangasouvenir Picnic 2017, mixed media installation, dimensions variable; installation image from exhibition I Can (Sing) Paint A Rainbow, group show with Rosie Deacon, Liam Benson, Anna Carey, Anne Macdonald, Rachel Timmins, Tom Loveday, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, 8 December 2017 – 4 February 2018. Photography: Silversalt Page 42, 43 Studio Assemblage [detail] 2019, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 44, 45 Tree Bear Punk Queens of the Desert 2018, mixed media installation, dimensions variable; installation image from exhibition Paired, a collaborative exhibition between Rosie Deacon and Studio A artist Emily Crockford, curated by Harriet Body, Firstdraft, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, 6 – 29 June 2018. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 47 Budgie Hoops 2018, ceramic garden ornament, plaster, acrylic paint, 20 x 15 x 30 cm. Photography: Zan Wimberley Page 48, 49 Tree Top Tweety Bird Pop Egg Design Living 2018, mixed media installation, dimensions variable; installation image from exhibition Suburbia, a collaborative exhibition between Rosie Deacon and Studio A artist Emily Crockford, Project Space, Cement Fondu, Paddington, Sydney, 15 March – 29 April 2018. Photography: Document Photography

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