Julia deVille ‘Bequeath’ @ e.g.etal

2 11 2012

Julia deVille‘s first solo exhibition in over five years is Bequeath‘ at e.g.etal.

This is a purely jewellery collection; no taxidermy here (just in case it may have bothered you).

photograph taken with gallery permission

While the skulls are certainly arresting and striking, I felt they distracted a little from the finer pieces and made it difficult to see all of them (some rings had spun around and I wouldn’t dare touch them to see, as I didn’t want to be responsible for the whole skull crashing to the floor!).

photograph taken with gallery permission

Exhibition media: “Julia’s work is characterised by the use of symbols and motifs from past eras. Her precious rings combine found settings from antique jewellery. Over several years, Julia has sourced antique jewellery and gemstones—their original owners long since deceased—waiting patiently for the right combination to form a new creation in her mind and then at her workbench. Through conceptual consideration and traditional and contemporary techniques she appropriates and reconfigures older pieces to form a new design.

The briolettes were especially lovely.

Julia deVille’s ‘Bequeath‘ is at e.g.etal until 3rd November 2012.

Julia deVille ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore’ @ Sophie Gannon Gallery

16 08 2010

Julia deVille is showing her new exhibition at the same gallery she showed ‘Cineraria‘ this time last year [see my review last year]. The new exhibition is titled ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore‘; and it also features collaborations with jeweller William Griffiths and artist Aly Aitken.

photograph taken with gallery permission

I find I can be affected by reading other reviews and media before seeing or writing about an exhibition, such that my reaction can sometimes be unconsciously formed a little by what I read. I counter this by usually not reading anything before seeing the show and writing my initial response, to be sure I understand my own opinion, and then find it really interesting how that can change with further reading etc. So, I’ll write my initial response before doing any research into the exhibition, and then write more after doing some more reading.

Charon ; photograph taken with gallery permission

This year I seemed more adversely affected by the taxidermy … last year I expected to be repulsed but found myself feeling great sensitivity, and I am sad I did not have that feeling this time; I did not experience a positive emotional response. I found it much more oppressive than I expected, or previously experienced, to be in a room of taxidermied animals. Actually, my initial feeling was a strong one of wanting to leave the room immediately, which I found quite unsettling.

There are fewer pieces here than in the previous exhibition (past exhibitions inform viewers’ experience of new exhibitions, for better or worse). I thought later that a white room, with square-edged white plinths (only one ornate column plinth and a strangely out-of-place wooden stool), is perhaps not the most atmospheric exhibition design for pieces that lend themselves to something much more dramatic (richly coloured walls maybe?).

The gallery website has excellent photographs of most pieces – a piglet, two kittens, two fawns, a goose, a chicken, an ostrich, two crows and a pigeon (though I think there were three fawns and two chickens in the show).

Orcus ; photograph taken with gallery permission

The piglet (above) and one of the fawns (below) were scattered with what looked like miniature lilies (silver and gold respectively) – for me, referencing the dead. Another motif were the saddles (on the kitten, ostrich, fawn and crow) and beading reminiscent of Elizabethan hair ornament (like the work on the kitten’s ears and piglets back above).

Without further reading (I don’t remember seeing an artist statement at the gallery) I did not understand the connection between the pieces. So, on to further research…

Lenore ; photographs taken with gallery permission

My initial response above led me to many questions, so I did a bit of reading and the writing below is following further research to put the show into some context. A few of the little points first:

  • while I understood the title referred to Pluto, I couldn’t remember what he was god of; he is Roman god of the Underworld and it is considered that ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore‘ in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem ‘The Raven‘ refers to Hell [wiki]
  • some of the names of the pieces are directly from ‘The Raven‘: Lenore (the narrator’s lover), Nevermore (the crow’s only response to all questions)
  • without having read ‘The Raven’ before (though I am interested now), I looked further at the names of the other pieces: Orcus is the punishing embodiment of the Roman god of the underworld; Charon is the Greek ferryman of the dead; Psychopomp is a Greek word for those spirits that guide the dead to the afterlife … yes, seeing the pattern!
  • I thought lilies were for death (not sure why?); however upon more reading, lilies are connected to the Virgin Mary and Eve (Lily of the Valley), as well as the Roman goddess Juno (mother of Hercules)

At this stage I was ready to read other people’s writing about this exhibition. The article from ‘The Age‘ confirms the connection to ‘The Raven’ (yes, I could have saved myself some time if I’d read this first!). The article states that Julia does her own taxidermy, but later says that she had “commissioned several cats from another taxidermist” – this is confusing and leaves me to wonder the balance of artist-hand versus outsourced work (I have previously met a professional taxidermist who said they did work for Julia).

Julia is quoted in this article as saying taxidermy is “really fashionable now” … I happened to visit the exhibition with a lady of excellent goth pedigree, who is also a fan of steam-punk, and it was clear to me that the popularity of post-goth-steam-punk-victoriana may be contributing to the craft/genre’s surge in popularity?

Others have written about the exhibition. Pre-opening media: broadsheet, makersofmelbourne, and many others with a little background information. Blog-wise, the three after-visit posts (many others were pre-show) I found were all positive: Douglas & Hope thought it was incredible, Frances Rose calls it a must-see; and Marcus at Art Blart writes a more substantial, well-considered and thoughtful post (as usual!) and had many good things to say (and saw hearts where I saw lilies, so I wonder what they were?).

After reading more and doing my own research, I have a deeper appreciation of how the pieces connect together. I would have liked to know more of this as I viewed the work – it was not on the works-list, but I do not know if a statement was available at the desk. This also refines my theory of not reading much before a show – it’s more about not reading opinion pieces, but reading back story is of course helpful, as knowledge of the intent always adds more to the experience. Though I still do wonder if the impact of the work would be enhanced by a more dramatic exhibition design or wall colour…

Julia deVille ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore‘ is at Sophie Gannon Gallery until 21st August 2010.

Julia deVille ‘Cineraria’ @ Sophie Gannon Gallery

3 08 2009

Cineraria‘ is defined as “a place for depositing the ashes of the dead after cremation“; and in this exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Julia deVille has combined her skills of taxidermy and metalworking to amazing effect.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

Until seeing this exhibition, I have been a little conflicted by Julia’s art – I appreciated and respected it, but didn’t feel it was something I understood or wanted to have near me. So I was quite taken aback by my reaction to this exhibition – I think I liked it; I was intrigued and fascinated but not disgusted, as I feared I may be. I walked around the room and could almost feel the love Julia has for these dead animals – for the care she has taken in preserving and accentuating their beauty is exceptional and must have been so time-consuming.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

The exhibition is not wholly taxidermy, though there is quite a lot of it – birds, a piglet, a puppy, and rabbits with metal components. There are also beautiful wood urns (above; the one on the right is just beautiful). And the most amazing piece to me is the entirely silver rook skeleton with a ruby-studded heart (detail below).

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

The Sophie Gannon Gallery site has very beautiful images of the major pieces in the exhibition (though as it is on their ‘main’ page, I am not sure how long these images will remain at this link).

There is also a collection of Julia’s jewellery, accompanied by the most voluptuous (is it wrong to use that adjective in this context?) little urns (if only I could take one home!).

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

This exhibition has also been reviewed by Grey Aviary, Victoria Mason (I love her term ‘art-crush’!) and LaydeeJ.

Julia deVille ‘Cineraria‘ is at Sophie Gannon Gallery from 29th July to 22nd August 2009.

Update (16th August): Marcus at ArtBlart has also reviewed this show [here]. I admire his critical eye and am interested in his point of view and his fearless expression. I also thought that the elements with the piglet didn’t quite feel ‘right’, I didn’t like the cat nor understood the relation of the flocked cow skull to the other works, and the birds genuinely freaked me out a bit – but at the time I put those reactions down to my expectation of not embracing the taxidermy at all in the first place. However because my overall sense was essentially my surprise that I didn’t dislike all of the work (as I feared I may, for dead things do freak me out!), I wrote about that experience and omitted the bits I wasn’t too sure about. That said though, I do think a specific and respectful critique is always valuable to makers and viewers, and other writers. I’ve learnt something today about courage in writing and taking the time to explore all the facets of the exhibition and one’s reaction; but courage must be complemented by knowledge and vocabulary and practice – here’s to more insightful writing (from me, Marcus already seems pretty good at it)!