Ricky Swallow solo show at NGV Australia
An absolutely wonderful collection of sculptural and watercolour works by the Australian artist Ricky Swallow recently opened at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
His first major Australian show since 2006, The Bricoleur, curated by Alex Baker, brings together an intriguing mix of Swallow’s well known, meticulously detailed, lifelike wooden sculptures (for example his classic table of hand-sculpted wooden fish Killing Time 2003-4) complimented by more permanent works in bronze.
A surprise collection of Swallow’s lesser-known watercolours, which were first surveyed by curator Steven Alderton in Ricky Swallow: Watercolours (Art Museum at the University of Queensland), are also included in the show.
The thing which grabs me about Swallow’s sculptures is his absolute mastery of contradiction in form.
When I look at the work of Renaissance masters, with life-like human forms in marble; I feel the weight of the marble, not the weight of the human body. With Swallow’s work, my perception is constantly torn between that of the depicted object and that of its material.
While looking at the back pack in Fig.2 (2009, pictured right), with its soft, material folds gently enveloping mysterious content, one can feel the heaviness of its contents, the lightness of its covering. This perception of weight makes no sense to a mind which reads the object’s texture of wood and knows the item should have an average dispersed weight equaling that of wood.
Likewise barnacles grow on what should be plastic balloons; two sets of fragile human bones hold hands in a too-late moment of intimacy – one which, made from annodised bronze, will – by contrast – last forever. The collection brought together in The Bricoleur reinforces Swallow’s engagement with the themes of permancence; to me suggesting the fraught value of art as an impossible attempt at permanence.
The Bricoleur is a must-experience opportunity to inspect Swallow’s incredible sculptural work in close detail.
Ricky Swallow (born 1974, San Remo, Victoria, Australia) currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California, USA . He won the Contempora 5 award in 1999 and represented Australia at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Click on the following images for more detail.