The Darragh makes work using cheap, fun and discarded materials, pilfering objects directly from the op-shops and living rooms of 'ordinary New Zealand'. Her finished artworks demonstrate a dense layering of familiar cliché's played off against one another, re-configured and exaggerated. This contextual complexity is accompanied in Darragh's work by a characteristic wit and delightfully irreverent sense of humour. During her prolific twenty year career her work has ranged from the ‘Queen of Kitsch’ era to the ‘grunge art’ of the mid nineties, and her new suit of sculptural works presents an interesting mixture of the two.
For this exhibition, Night/Fall Darragh makes witty use of material that started life in the $2 shop in a wondrous reconfiguerment of the everyday. Displayed on the gallery wall is a large format digital work that evokes the night sky, the holes punched in the surface of the print show the white wall behind. A freestanding sculptural work - a tower of hand painted bottles - references Duchamp’s ‘Bottle Rack/Egouttoir’ from 1914 and mimics the ready-made work while simultaneously moving it into a more decorative and playful realm. The individual bottles in this piece are delicately painted with stars asteroids and planets, so that each bottle contains its own galaxy, stacking upon and folding into one another.
A visually spectacular wall piece constructed from fluro painted records is the world’s brightest Rorschach test. The records themselves spin like planets and form in an uncannily symmetrical constellation. The strange twist in this work is that a Rorschach test requires you to study and contemplate the form from which to read your own symbols or images – and yet with the fluro coating on each record they become almost impossible to look at. The work is a visual assault – and there is a sense that you need avert your eyes before doing permanent damage to your retina. The work both encourages and repels the act of looking.
Two wall sculptural works play with the laws of gravity. Both fall from high one pooling on the floor the other slowly dripping, their liquid-like nature defying the solid material from which they are constructed. On opposite gallery wall glossy scenic posters rotated and pinned upside down confuse and momentarily suspend gravity.
The presentation of this exhibition is playful, and reflects Darragh’s delight in the craft of making things and discovering objects that deserve a second chance, a make over. Her work cleverly straddles the divide between low art and high art and celebrates the decorative arts, craft and folk art. The exhibition as a whole creates a sense of limbo, of flipping and rotating, a play with gravity. Strange forces are at work and the resulting vertigo makes for cosmic viewing.
Judy Darragh is an Auckland based artist who is currently lecturing for the Visual Arts degree at Manukau Institute of Technology and Elam School of Art in Auckland. Judy has played a significant role in the development of Artspace (1987) and the independent artist run space Teststrip (1992) and Cuckoo. She was born in Christchurch and completed a Diploma in Visual Communication and Design at the Wellington Polytechnic. She has exhibited widely in New Zealand and has works in collections around the country. Judy has spent periods as artist in residence at Queen’s College Melbourne and at the University of Canterbury. In the mid-90s she made her debut as co-director in two documentary films for TVNZ. She is represented by Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch and Roger Williams Contemporary in Auckland.