Yang-En Hume, Juliette Furio, Veronica Habib and Thomas Quayle
Friday 3 October – Saturday 18 October 2014
Emerging artists Yang-En Hume, Juliette Furio, Veronica Habib and Thomas Quayle collaborate to explore contemporary significations of the body fragment. The exhibition highlights the fragility of the human body and humanity’s destructive capabilities.
‘[…] But what of that sense of social, psychological, even metaphysical fragmentation that so seems to mark modern experience – a loss of wholeness, a shattering of connection, a destruction or disintegration of permanent value […].’ Linda Nochlin, The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity, (1994)
Today there is an unprecedented level of media reportage and imaging of tragedy and atrocity being transmitted into the privacy of living rooms and electronic devices everywhere. It is inescapable: images and inferences of the body fragment have ultimately made their way into the collective psyche. For thousands of people, this fragmentation of bodies and societies is an actual and immediate threat, while for those in the West it usually remains a mediated experience, one drawn from many sources all over the world.
In Atrophy, four emerging artists – Yang-En Hume, Veronica Habib, Juliette Furio and Thomas Quayle – collaborate to explore contemporary significations of the body fragment from a Western perspective. Far from being comfortable with their position, they explore the anaesthetising effects that relative wealth and privilege have on a sense of community and human connectedness.
Body parts and found materials are combined en masse to create a sensory experience of chaos, uncertainty and isolation. Atrophy highlights the desensitisation towards trauma and violence that this unrelenting exposure induces within those living in affluent societies. The work considers the artists own position of living in the west, and the impact that media exposure has on their view of the world. The glimpses of the personal in the body casts remind the viewer of the real human experiences behind our mediated observations of global events. Further to this, it is a response to the depersonalising nature of the consumption and waste of neoliberal, capitalist societies.
Art historian, Linda Nochlin takes up the possible readings of fragmentation in her 1994 essay, The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity, where she traces various, historically separate representations of the fragmented body throughout art history. Commencing with Henry Fuseli’s The Artist Overwhelmed by the Grandeur of Antique Ruins (1778-9) Nochlin traces the representation of the dismembered body in the paintings of Theodore Gericault, through to paintings informed by the medium of photography where bodies are cropped and divided by the photograph’s edge. In each case, the representation of the fragmented body signifies social, psychological and at times metaphysical fragmentation associated with the experience of industrialisation, technological innovations, revolution and war that characterised modernity. Artists used the fragmented body as a metaphor for the disintegrative effects and perceived loss of wholeness in society, which these changes brought about. Moving on to the Postmodern era, Nochlin uses the work of Hans Bellmer, Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe to outline how the fragmented body is often used as a transgressive resistance against unambiguous sexuality, gender and modernist rationality.
It is within this context that Atrophy is situated. Its use of the dismembered, fragmented body to highlight disjuncture and alienation in human society is reminiscent of early modernist artists’ use of the body fragment to depict social upheaval and change. Yet the work is also transgressive in its desire to destabilise hierarchies in art, institutions and social relationships, in the hope of re-building a paradigm that will offer solutions to what the artists witness as a world, not so much in flux, but free-fall. The installation overwhelms the viewer with gritty overabundance, destabilising the privileged position of the ‘white-cube’ art gallery. The collaborative nature of Atrophy problematises the authority and ‘heroism’ of the solitary artist. These artists have opted for a democratic approach to art making; shifting away from art as independent object making, to art as a form of exchange and co-operation. Atrophy refuses to be didactic, universal or objective. Instead it confronts the complexity of contemporary Western society, by drawing attention to the personal, while overwhelming the viewer with the mass. It confronts the human paradox of being simultaneously fragile, yet also capable of destruction.
Written by Yang-En Hume and edited by Juliette Furio ©2014
Image (top of page): Atrophy, 2014. Plaster casts and building rubble, variable dimensions. Photo credit: Veronica Habib.
Juliette L Furio is a Sydney-based sculptor and writer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the National Art School in 2013 and has since exhibited at a number of independent galleries, including Home@735 and Gallery8. Her sculptures have been exhibited in a variety of prizes, both in Sydney and regionally, including the Blacktown Art Prize and the Arts in the Valley Festival, Kangaroo Valley. In addition to sustaining her own sculptural practice, Juliette publishes monthly artist-profiles through The Big Smoke and forms one of the four members of the Dismemberment Collective. Juliette has an ongoing interest in the human figure, using it as a means to explore ideas surrounding the boundary between the beautiful and the macabre. Her practice is largely informed by Surrealist theory, and how our subconscious desires inform conscious thought. In 2014 she began working on the collaborative sculptural-installation Atrophy that explores neglect and degradation in the human body and industrial landscape.
Veronica Habib is a multidisciplinary artist with a particular interest in performance, video and installation. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the National Art School in 2013. She held her first solo exhibition at Articulate Space in 2014, and has exhibited in a number of group exhibitions at various artist-run initiatives in Sydney. Her work has been exhibited at Gaffa Gallery, Gallery Eight, and now Airspace Projects. In 2015 her videos will be exhibited as part of an international exhibition, touring throughout Europe, London and Australia, as well as a large group exhibition in Tortuga. Veronica utilises clothing, as an external skin to explore themes of shame, body image and sexuality. She challenges ideas surrounding consent, with her work suggestive of physical touch, which can be associated with violation, pleasure, destruction and play.
Yang-En Hume is a Sydney-based multi-disciplinary artist. She graduated as Dux of her year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours Class 1) from the National Art School in 2013, having previously completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. Yang-En received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from the National Art School, was shortlisted for the 2013 Hatched graduate exhibition, and was highly commended at the 2013 Blacktown Art Prize. She has been a recipient of the William Fletcher Grant, was named Young Artist of the Year in the Ashfield Council Australia Day awards in 2009, and was included in the College of Fine Arts Dean’s list for academic achievement. Yang-En has also been a finalist in a number of art prizes including the Rick Amor Drawing Prize, the Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award, the Waverley Art Prize and the Mount Eyre Vineyards Art Prize.
Yang-En was a team leader, working on the collaborative collage works, No Human Being is Illegal (In All Our Glory), instigated by Deborah Kelly, which formed part of the 2014 Sydney Biennale. She was also awarded an eight-month studio residency with Brand X in 2013. Yang-En has held solo exhibitions at Gaffa Gallery and at the Brand X gallery, Central. She has also participated in a number of group exhibitions with various Artist-Run Initiatives around Sydney, most recently exhibiting with Home@735, Gallery Eight, and now Airspace Projects. Her work has been reviewed by, and featured on The Art Life and The Near and Elsewhere blogs.
Thomas Quayle is a Sydney-based ceramic artist who graduated from the National Art School in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours). He will be exhibiting in the 2014 Sculpture by the Sea and was a recipient of the $10 000 Clitheroe Mentorship Award. He has previously been a recipient of the N.E. Pethebridge Award. Thomas has exhibited in a variety of galleries throughout Sydney including Kerry Lowe Gallery, Gallery Eight, The Corner Cooperative, and now Airspace Projects. His work has also been published in the Journal of Australian Ceramics. Thomas creates figurative ceramic pieces, which explore trauma and isolation as a human experience. He is also interested in challenging ceramic conventions, with his work often bypassing traditional processes for ceramics.
©2014 The Artists Juliette Furio, Veronica Habib, Yang-En Hume and Thomas Quayle