EX DE MEDICI: MELBOURNE ART FAIR
Dr Jenny McFarlane Canberra June 2012
All my conversations with eX de Medici are about politics. Not party politics, not local politics, but big picture politics- the way the world works. We watch the unfolding of strategic alliance networks, the flows of money and power, the fundamentalist ideologies which drive popularist movements and their demagogues. Is it truly possible to imagine America as anything but a theocracy we wonder? Why have we as a species continued to tolerate genocide and apartheid regimes? Where do the far right movements come from and why do they continue to attract support for their unconscionable policies? Stories and counter-stories fly thick and fast and with them the images which have caught our eye. The perennial cast; the churches, the unsavoury fringe political movements and major political machines all deploy images as an essential part of their political arsenal. The American flag is redrawn as bloodied stripes; the bearers of six pointed stars and those who carry stars with eight points seem able to justify abominable atrocities on each other.
These images are not formal arrangements of pigment on a given support. They are loaded guns, real carriers of meaning. For many, these images are worth dying for. Like the subjects of eX’s earlier entomological series, these are real. While they cannot literally have a pin driven through their flesh to hold them still under a microscope, these images have a real impact on the world we live in. In a pattern which is becoming increasingly obvious, eX de Medici has brought to our attention another visual language which the art world has overlooked, images which structure our way of understanding, images which rally emotions and passions. This is image making at its most powerful and. eX has been exploring this imagery since the election of the Liberal Party under John Howard in 1996. Unlike her moths, these invocations of the name of God, stripes and stars are not endangered but have become increasingly prevalent.
As eX works at these grim images she tallies the hours spent on the work at the bottom of each sheet of paper. The hours are also measured in news radio. Community representatives, political analysts, economists and religious and political leaders debate across her worktable as she maps out the details of each work. Remarkable conjunctions, recalling Isidore Ducasse’s famous line: “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella”, seep into the work. The dark truths revealed in these works have this same quality of hideous beauty, delivered as a Ton of Bricks. We see Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran trapped together- Scorpions in a jar - 2012 perhaps visible in this form by the grace of the night-vision headgear which lies adjacent on the page. In perhaps the most strikingly beautiful work of this series; Spy (Tehran/Qom) 2012, a soldier ant is plugged into the exquisitely decorated ceiling of Fatima Mousemeh Mosque in Qom, the glorious cultural heritage become office of the Ayatollah Khomeini. (How many Fatwa’s were delivered from here?) This glossy Cataglyphis altisquamis, to give the Iranian ant its proper name, is tenaciously embedded in the richly decorated architecture.
While you talked shit on Facebook they blew up the world 2012- who wouldn’t be frustrated, the politics are far from bucolic. Here three diminutive lions stand in a defensive triangle formation but they have grenades lashed to their tails. This reprise of a bronze from the Persian Archaeological Museum in Tehran, seen during a recent visit, faces the looming shadow of the star spangled banner. An age-old defensive strategy threatens this time to be hoist by its own petard.
The ultimate image must always be the black square. Sexual Aberrations of the Criminal Female (You Freud me Jane) 2010 is solid with concentrated meaning. The patterns buried deep in this velvet surface are the names of God in kufic script as seen on the portals of the Jameh Mosque, Yazd, Iran. This is the mosque featured on the Iranian 200 rials banknote. Here money, theocracy and political machinery combine; dark matter coiled in a concentrated void which also contains the essence of everything. In 2011 this work was shown as the first part of a triptych exhibited as Sleepwalking with Bihzad’s needle, a reference to the Persian miniaturist Bihzad who put out his eyes in order to see more clearly.
Its pair here, Addict #2 2011, is garlanded with poppies which orbit following the universal symbol of nuclear energy. This again is a linking of two images, two realities; the drug trade and the nuclear industry. Brought into a new and startling conjunction with apparently nothing to link them, this intersection of political realities nevertheless invokes a profound truth. Life and energy are bleached from the formerly potent square leaving only a shadow in its wake. The centre becomes a hollowed out shell, an absence of life and meaning in the face of such addictions.
These watercolours are landscapes of complicit ideologies, unholy alliances and irrational theocracies. They are not portraits of individuals but expositions of political environments; landscapes of the machinery of power. In these works eX asks us to see what is not said and untangle the implicit undercurrents beyond the nightly 30 second news grab. Under her tutelage we focus our horrified gaze and bear witness to hideous truths, which are both known and unacknowledged. eX de Medici’s message is delivered with the finesse of a surgeon but it packs a powerful punch.