Review: Window into a shadowy childhood

visual arts “Scars of a Ritual Past” by Mariana del Castillo At Canberra Contemporary Art Space Gorman House, until May 10 Reviewed by Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak

“SCARS of a Ritual Past”, an installation of found objects, wood, metal, paint, hair and neon lights, comprises 12 freestanding individual works, which collectively provide a window into the shadow world of the artist’s complex Ecuadorian childhood.

2014_03_30_1396137525_scarsHer passion for incorporating recycled and up-cycled domestic items, that retain the subtle emanations of their previous owners, is well known and this work marks a significant change from smaller to much larger works.

Elements include a sister’s long black wedding wig, wrought iron children’s beds, deer antlers, religious/ritualistic tokens, a collection of sewing machines (including that of the late Rosalie Gascoigne, gifted to the artist by the family) and the patterns, pins and props that reference her mother’s dressmaking trade.

A number of the works incorporate oblique messages in custom made neon signage, including the beautifully realised “Te Perdono”, (in English, I forgive you) first seen in “Bad Girls” at CCAS in 2013. “Unquiet”, juxtaposes a stilled treadle sewing machine against its slow-flashing neon title referring perhaps to the usually “unquiet”, but now silenced machine that provided the aural soundscape of her childhood as well as to the various undercurrents of domestic “unquiet” that marked the lives of her large matrilineal family group.

Also represented in exhibition, Samantha Small’s marvelous, transformative installation “Sour Castles” and Pat Hoffie’s breath-catching continuation of her decades long political manifesto, the “Fully Exploited Labor” series. A must see CCAS exhibition.


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