I have just visited the major exhibition Louise Martin Chew curated of Linde Ivimey’s sculpture. It is an outstanding exhibition and deserves to be seen by a wider audience. It follows in the steps of another excellent exhibition at the same venue – University of Queensland Art Museum, curated by Alison Kubler on Australian artist Polly Borland. Both Kubler and Martin-Chew are freelance curators, friends, colleagues and are based in Queensland. They bring a world view to the exhibitions they create whilst based in Brisbane.
Linde Ivimey’s exhibition If Pain Persists is an autobiography, for a first time viewer of her work it is an ideal way to witness her evolution, as an artist and as person reacting and reflecting on the journey of life. She reveals everything, from her personal preoccupations, religion, past ill-health to her adventure to the Antarctic.
Ivimey through her work tells stories of a life many times lived on the edge – her precarious health, some impoverished times and to a life with some luxuries certain artists get to enjoy.
At first glance other artists do come to mind. Queensland artist Judith Wright’s recent body of work seen at GOMA and MCA is one. Wright’s sculptures used all manner of found objects and much of that work is spectacularly macabre yet unlike others I did not find Ivimey’s work grotesque or chilling. Instead I found her forms sympathetic and endearing. Most were only as tall as small children aged around 6 to 10. The unselfconscious or guileless stance she gives to many invite us to not to recoil in horror that they are made or covered in bones but to instinctively warm to them.
The original use of the chicken neck bones to ‘crochet’ an armoury or create a pattern that looks like woven or knotted yarn could be most unsettling for some. But for me Ivimey creates an extremely elegant covering using this repetitive diamond pattern. Yet any lasting attempt at whimsy is undermined by inspection of the materials and technique.
Whilst I agree with most of art critic John MacDonald’s recent review in the Sydney Morning Herald, I do not endorse his assertion that the figures are monstrous or that you can feel horror.
A work here from the Antarctic series show how the explorers faces were completely obscured by a thick halo of snow.
But the powerful works for me were the sculptures that combine animal features with humans and quickly another artist comes to mind. Sometime back I bought a book by the English artist Charlotte Cory who created a series of altered photographs from her collection of the discarded photographic postcard portraits of Victorians. Cory collaged the photographs by replacing the heads with those of various taxidermist animals. Whilst they do not have human faces they still convey a recognisable human personality. Think of people you know who have dogs that have features that resemble their own.
The works in the religious series are powerful and her interpretation of the Twelve Apostles and the Four Horsemen are presented in an entirely original tableaux. However I am not a catholic therefore I cannot comment on its transformational significance.
The materials Ivimey uses for heads, other body parts or adornment include duck, pork, chicken, beef and lamb bones, many left over from meals she has prepared. Butchers have saved her carcasses and bones along with friends who have gifted her with various objects. Like the artist Fiona Hall she will find a use for anything even lint left over from washing and drying material.
Ivimey is at home with anything that can be used to make art. I was not surprised to read in Martin-Chew’s monograph that Ivimey once worked for Sweet Art, the specialists in sculpting cakes.
I found Martin-Chew’s monograph an excellent aid to delve deeper into the genesis of Ivimey’s work. I just could not take it all in at the first viewing. Whilst the exhibition flowed well, an installation that all involved should be proud of, I still needed the catalogue to assist me to further digest what I had seen.
The last words belong to Martin-Chew who says ‘Emotional intensity simmers in every one of Ivimey’s recent works’.
If Pain Persists, Linde Ivimey Sculpture
Curator and publication author: Louise Martin-Chew
Photos: Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane and Gould Galleries, Melbourne