Nascent Desire And Captivating Narcissism: An Art exhibition by Natalie Papak

Natalie Papak knows that clay is a very fluid medium to work with. When she comes up with an idea she feels compelled to record it straight away. Clay can be very temperamental so it was important to Papak to have very thorough preparations in the design stage and sketching stage, in order to achieve each individual sculpture. There is a very exstensive and intricate planning process that was carried out to create the finished product that is the charming and self referential art collection of Nascent Desire and Captivating Narcissism.

Is blue the warmest colour? Over half the world would believe so. The colour blue is the colour most people would believe is their favorite. Blue is the colour of my father’s eyes and as a result I have always found myself trusting men with this eye colour, sometimes to my emotional detriment. Out of the five children in my family, only I inherited my father’s blue eyes. As a result of this I have an over inflated sense of my own uniqueness.

The exhibition in Gallery 2 of Blindside gallery, is like being enveloped in an alternative world. A world that is in calm contrast to the world around us as we live in the bustling metropolis that is Melbourne. It is also in stark contrast to the world we may carry around within us. This world can be even more deafening and harder to ignore. Papak’s exhibition  achieved what I thought to be almost impossible. It managed to calm my inner demons and make me feel, through her beautiful clay sculptures and mixed media prints, enshrouded in the Neptune blue lighting of lamps, that things were going to be ok.  And even if they were not, it did not matter. Because at this particular moment, I fely as though i was walking through a gallery located at the bottom of the ocan and all the trouble of the surface world was twenty thousand leagues above my head.

You need to go through gallery one of Blindside first, a new media affair of three laptops showing different city scape scenes. The heat of their hard drives humming and warming the room. This makes the walk through the blue gauzy curtain marking the entry to Papak’s exhibition even more striking. You go from a strong very electrical and technology based world to something extreemly other worldly. Papak wanted to make the doorless entryway have something you had to walk through, in order to exacerbate the feeling of leaving one world and entering another.

This she has managed beautifully. I was glad to have come on a saturday afternoon to find the exhibition empty of people. The overall feel of the art would not been achieved fully, had i had to elbow my way through a throng of people. Experiencing it in solitude is most recommended. This allows you to take in each object de art with the utmost pleasure.

On entering the space you are immediately under the impression of being under water, beneath the depths of the deepest sea. It is an iner transformation that occurs, the sign of a wonderful art experience. to your left is a walkmen with head phones. The headphones are placed over a circle of mirror. A prompt for reflection and inner observation. The sounds coming through the head phones are entitled  Water Soundscapes which were produced and recorded by John Stevens.  If you do not already feel like a mermaid on entering the space, you will when listening to the wonderous and pensive sounds of Steven’s sound art.

Along the left blue wall are 4 poster sized unframed images on paper. The images are created using mixed media in washy colours of red blue and yellow.  The first is entitled  Oh The Places You Will Go ( Mary Janes). It depicts a pair of little girl legs with feet encased in black mary janes and white socks. As your eyes move up the image the tops of the legs morph into pieces of coral pinky red and pointing up into the top of the image. The title taken from the title of a Dr Zuese picture story book. The image depicts childhood and the cycle of existence.  Submerged (Pentagram), Pink Leopard Feet (Coral Bed), and the final work on paper Nascent Desire: Fertile Mama, ecapsulate a feeling of nurturing and motherly love. It affected me and I am sans uterus. The nascent desire is a term that expresses the beginnings of desire the roots and blossoming  desire to create that can be associate with the feminine mystique, a concept that has long facinated Papak. Along the bottom of the left wall are a collection of blue light lamps that maintain the blue hued world in which Papak has made for us.  The works on paper provide a cohesive creative statement that is in keeping with the clay sculptures that each have thier own shelf. Each clay sculpture an image in keeping with the overall themes: Desire and narcissicm, The Feline  and the sea.

The notion of worshiping and paying hommage to the female form is both universal and ancient. This can be observed in Papak’s sculpture entitled Red Mothers And Their Pink Daughters, a piece that is presented with a circular mirror underneath it. This encouraged within my own mind to attempt to excavate portions of my own lost history. How I wanted to show my own mother what I was coming to understand. This exhibition made me further analyse my own mother/feminine relationship. How you can become obsessed with the idea of carving out an identitly for yourself so very far from where you came from.  How I struggled to become someone so seperate from my own mother only to realize that a bit of similarity is not the end of the universe. This exhibition makes you question you very deepest understanding of who you are. The blueness of the room inspires contemplation as does the art works presented with mirrors, an open invitation from the artist herself, to get lost her world and similarly the world her work creates within your own imagination.

In clay sculptures such as Tiger Feet, Pink Leopard Feet ( Find Your Roots) and Cheetah Feet )The Past), these glazed stoneware and perspex are inspired by creatures who roam above sea level. Papak considers the universal ancestry of the feline as connected to the notion offemale iconography and the desire to create life and be a part of the cycle that is existence.

‘So, in effect the presence of a leaping feline provides the ceramic hero(ine) a new skin and multiple lifelines with which to leap from the past into the present at any time.’ – Natalie Papak. Weather it be the feline family feet or the female human feet in Mary Janes, there is a collective aura of going forward in one way or another at anytime of your choosing. Like the motion of the ocean never staying the same always evolving. It is a comforting message if you are someone experiencing drastic changes that seem more than a little out of your control.  To evolve is to survive and survive we must.

I Aint Dead Yet is one of my favorite of Papak’s sculptures. A glazed stoneware and perspex sculpture of a human skull about the size of a grown adults fist. The white skull is not so much a symbol of death at all. It embodies a hopeful exuberance in its wide round black  eye sockets. Almost cartoonish in shape and demeanor. Coming out of the top of the skull’s head are three forked spikes of pink coral, each column shooting out of the skull and ending in sets of three small rounded tipped forks or like little fingers reading up as if to try and reach above the blue water world that holds them. Do they want to escape? Do they really want to tell their story? Or are these creatures content to exist in the depths of this calm and blue hued atmosphere? Or are we merely projecting our own nascent desires onto these creations and allowing them to reflect a distorted idea back on to our own concscienceness?

Do these creatures glazed and shining amongs the calm blue ocean that surrounds them and the audience, are they speaking? Is there something they are trying to tell us? Or is what they are not saying more important. The silence is where ideas can slowly start and percolate within us with delicious and startling results. It is only in the unknown that knowing can start. It ios from this that a surge of desire for enlightenment can evolve and we can become more powerful as the surge and the search is maintained by the nascent desire at the roots of it all.

It is no accident that the final sculpture in the exhibition located near the entrance is entitled Turn Around, Start Again.

Good idea, ART.


Natalie Papak’s Nascent Desire and Captivating Narcissism is showing at Blindside Gallery ( level 7 Room 17 of the Nicholas building, until Saturday 23rd of November 2013.