REVIEWD BY RIC SPENCER
WEEKEND EXTRA – THE ARTS
Artists love to pull the carpet out from under our eyes, so to speak. In Perth at present are a number of shows which aim to remind us that what we see is not always the whole picture.
Gillian Warden’s Mystery Tour at Gallery East in North Fremantle takes the viewer back to the naive wonder that is seeing when you’re a child. Full of creatures with beautifully articulated expressions, Warden’s paintings express a desire to reacquaint the mind with the fantastic capacity for imaginary vision that we tend to lose somewhere beyond childhood.
Her big, four-panel work which lends its name to the title of the show dominates the wall as you enter. A small boy drives a carnival train and each carriage contains one of his imaginary animal playmates. The pink and polka-dotted kangaroo in the second-last carriage seems to have done something wrong – it points to itself incredulously as if implicated by the other passengers.
The expression on the face of the small monkey in the last carriage has been caught beautifully. It is the expression of a small child who is next to the one being told off, looking down, half hiding, not wanting to be castigated as well, while sneaking a curious look at the events.
In this work, as with the majority of Warden’s paintings, the paint is expressively used through a combination of techniques, sometimes illustrational, sometimes completely washed and rubbed back. This pushing of her paint techniques across the canvas adds to the tension and indeed melancholy that accompanies the images. Although the big canvases dominate the show, it is the small board panels that best capture Warden’s dark wit.
In one panel, a goat-like figure appears with its bags and trench coat, arriving unannounced in our dreams. In another, a pink bunny lies in the green grass, arm decapitated and replaced by a synthetic limb. Broody and with the heart of the French carnival, Warden captures the dark innocence of imagined viewing that haunts the edge of the adult mind.