Provocative, inspiring exhibition explores the neck

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Anna Davern, “Meat and Greet”. Photo: Fred Kroh.

Craft / “The Neck” at Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra until July 17, Tuesdays to Fridays, 10am-5pm, Saturday 12-4pm. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

IN the western world, the neck is almost always on show and is a potent part of the body on which to wear an important piece of jewellery.

The curator of this exhibition invited exhibitors to explore the neck as a space for political, social and environmental critique.

Melinda Young is showing two works incorporating the accoutrements of sewing: small pieces of fabric, beads, threads and vintage cotton reels.

“Stitched-up Neckpiece”, 2019, combines vintage cotton reels, wrapped with fine silver printed with heirloom lace and textiles. This work contrasts with the third piece on display, “Pennyweight Neckpiece”, made from 21 American one-cent pieces linked by sliced brass bullet casings. In this work, Young is drawing attention to the issue of guns, and the appalling lack of serious gun control in the United States.

Some viewers will be familiar with Melissa Cameron’s work, much of which has explored weapons and what she refers to as “socially aware/protest art”. A stainless steel gun hanging by shackles from a steel chain, pulls no punches about Cameron’s feelings about the destructiveness of guns.

Many artists exhibiting in this show are drawing attention to issues in Australian society that concern them. Some are humorous, such as “Meat and Greet”, in recycled satin and stuffing. A long string of sausages, and other foods, is a way of welcoming immigrants and refugees to Australia. Despite its jocularity, this work might be seen to carry an underlying message that we are a fairly superficial lot.

Two works by Vivien Atkinson remind us, whether we are in New Zealand, where she is currently based, or in Australia that hand-sanitising and mask-wearing have become a way of life. Creating a pendant of a crocheted cover for a bottle of hand sanitiser means it is always on hand and you can use your own favourite brand. “An Elizabethan Ruff in the Time of a New Plague”, offers one way of repurposing the ubiquitous disposable masks.

In addressing the curatorial themes, other exhibitors have used soap carved into beads and threaded on plastic, drawing our attention to the degradation of our environment, and the loss of species.

It is a provocative and inspiring exhibition. We should admire the artists, appreciate their concerns, and consider our own positions on the issues they raise.

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