Arts / The uncanny art of Hyper Real

A figure in the nursing home

“UNCANNY” is the term visitors are likely to have when encountering the National Gallery of Australia’s new exhibition “Hyper Real”, opening to the general public tomorrow and running through summer.

Sam Jinks’ “The deposition”, 2017.

Presenting 32 artists and nearly 50 works, “Hyper Real highlights the contribution of Australian practitioners, not least  Patricia Piccininni, Sam Jinks, Ron Mueck, Shaun Gladwell, Jan Nelson, Stephen Birch and Ronnie van Hout.’

The NGA’s senior curator of global contemporary art practice, Jaklyn Babington, told those present at the media launch this morning that the aim was to achieve a “momentary double-take, so that we’re  not quite sure if what we saw as real.”

You can say that again.

In one of the largest exhibitions ever mounted by the gallery, one that finishes in a huge circular red velvet tent containing  a grand digital exhibition, “Inverso Mundus” (“the world turned upside down”) by the Russian collective AES+F, that beggars description.

Viewers are taken through gallery after gallery where representations of human beings and other animals are seen in the round, on-screen and sometimes in surprising places.

Some exhibits are in motion. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s kinetic sculptures are purportedly set in a nursing home. Impossible to capture in still photography, they show elderly people from many different nationalities whizzing around in moving wheelchairs. The effect is rather disturbing.

One of the highlights of the show is its only newly-commissioned work, “The deposition” 2017, by Australian artist Sam Jinks, a tender representation of a very old woman with her middle-aged son in her arms.

Jinks told “CityNews” that he had once before created a sculpture like this, in the line of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” but that now that he was older, he was looking at a different kind of relationship between age groups.

Jinks agreed  that onlookers would make of it what they would, but said to him it is clear that the sculpture speaks of parenthood and the way the whole body can sometimes seem stronger than a younger one – “and it’s not meant to be that way”.

Ron Mueck’s ‘Wild Man’

Without doubt the biggest double take in the exhibition will be with sculptor Ron Mueck’s enormous “Wild Man,” facing his “Pregnant Woman”. In both cases, the onlooker is bound to feel they are facing real life itself, writ large.

Central to the exhibit is a gallery of works by Patricia Piccininni, famous in Canberra for her Sky Whale and now an international figure in the art world for creating hybrid “creatures”.

The aforementioned AES+F 360° immersive work, for which you should prepare to sit down, is a huge video artwork. Be prepared for some blood and guts, along with extraordinary beauty, in this fitting file finale to an “uncanny” show.

“Hyper Real”, National Gallery of Australia, October 20-February 18. Bookings to premier.ticketek.com.au or 132849.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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