Soft Spot, Hard Feelings

Review by Melanie Cooper

 Deborah Prior with  Grey Ghost  and Anna Horne with  Weigh Down

Deborah Prior with Grey Ghost and Anna Horne with Weigh Down

As the title suggests, Soft Spot, Hard Feelings is an exhibition that teases at the edges of materiality and the intangible, disruptive qualities of feeling, sensory perception and artistic intent. What is striking here is the subtle, inherent tension in each of the works that is almost unnameable and quietly evasive.

Let’s not forget where we are. Inside a renovated church that is now home to the Holy Rollers Studios and gallery space, I couldn’t shake the disembodied memory of past assemblies and the religious regalia that had once filled this space. Absent but present. In place of an altar, the hypnotic, luminous glow of Sundari Carmody’s White white (Summer and Winter Solstice) beckons the viewer inside an open space once lined with orderly church pews and filled with the faithful. White white implores focus as a central point of contemplation. It seems fitting and perhaps ironic that Carmody’s use of white, curvilinear light depicting levels of solstice sunlight should appear in place of the traditional Christian cross or crucifix associated with Jesus Christ, the ‘light of the world.’

 Sundari Carmody , white white (summer and winter solstice) , 2017, neon light, electrical components, 70 x 100cm

Sundari Carmody, white white (summer and winter solstice), 2017, neon light, electrical components, 70 x 100cm

I am snapped out of my reverie by my impatient daughter and the initial shock of Matt Huppatz’s Word Test for Word Play I: Status Anxiety. Flanking each side of the stage painted black and facing toward the congregational mass, Huppatz’s bold white text on black sparked immediate associations with another kind of devoted brethren. Not unlike scoreboards on the sporting field, the words can be read almost like chants or rhymes. Evoking a sense of push and pull, values of opposition and difference are thrown into question and doubt by virtue of their movable and nonsensical arrangement. Words and labels begin to lose their conventional meaning and dissolve into letters and sounds, misplacing the hard edge of their common use.

 Carly Snoswell , Since 2011 , 2017, found images of Beyonce, felt, sequins, beads, metallic thread, cotton, wool, various trim

Carly Snoswell, Since 2011, 2017, found images of Beyonce, felt, sequins, beads, metallic thread, cotton, wool, various trim

While language has the power to categorise according to a system of values, images are also used to promote cultural ideals. Carly Snoswell’s Since 2011 is an elaborately crafted homage to Beyoncé in fringe, sequin, bead and stitch. As the catalogue essay notes, Snoswell’s practice questions the hierarchy of high art and craft, ‘mastery and kitsch.’[1] The repetitive processes of embroidery and beadwork requires focused attention not unlike the obsessive nature of ardent fandom. Reminiscent of teenage girls’ bedrooms plastered with posters and fashion cast-offs, Since 2011 presents a challenge to artistic and cultural values, but it also speaks to the political impositions of categorisation and identity formation. Can you be a feminist and still love glitter and sequins and relationships? Feminism that embraces individuality and self expression says yes, you can - and so does Beyoncé. In this way, Snoswell’s practice echoes the nature of Beyoncé’s self-representation in her refusal to conform to socio-cultural limitations and hierarchies of value.

 Deborah Prior,  Veil I,  Velveteen, found fabrics, beads, gold trim Deborah Prior,  Veil II , Velveteen, found fabrics, beads, gold trim Photo credits: Matto Lucas

Deborah Prior, Veil I, Velveteen, found fabrics, beads, gold trim
Deborah Prior, Veil II, Velveteen, found fabrics, beads, gold trim
Photo credits: Matto Lucas

In Deborah Prior’s practice, hierarchies of art versus craft are redundant. Through processes of cutting and deconstructing, reconstructing and stitching back together, The Invisible Woman evokes the corporeality of physical experience and simultaneous absence. In each of Prior’s works, her stitches remain as individual gestures of intent and meditation. The body thinks, interacts, intervenes and manipulates material. The body eventually disappears. But it leaves proof of its presence. Similarly, Quilt is a kind of commemoration in knitted panels punctuated by menstrual blood as signs of process and existence. In the memory of the space as a church, this piece becomes a kind of holy relic and relates back to Prior’s interest in the incorruptible religious body and its distinction from the earthly realms of flesh and decay.[2]

Anna Horne’s work also interrogates physical relationships and interactions between materials with sculpted objects that throw perception into question. Confusing the viewer’s judgment, Horne’s sculptures oscillate between notions of balance and collapse, soft and hard, weight and space. Similarly, Min Wong’s digital prints on stainless steel mirrors draws the viewer in to inspect the depths of their inky surfaces to discover images that are at once strangely familiar and yet resolutely enigmatic.

Concluding the exhibition on the 19th of August, artists Lauren Abineri, Celeste Aldahn, Thomas Capogreco, Alison Currie, Ray Harris, Pony Horseman, Henry Jock Walker, Luke Wilcox (replaced by Michael Schaefer on the day) and Winter Witches will extend these investigations further in a performance event that is not to be missed.


[1] Rayleen Forrester, Soft Spot, Hard Feelings catalogue, August 2017.

[2] Craig Middleton, ‘On Beauty, Religion and Decay: The Art of Deborah Prior,’ Fineprint Magazine, http://www.fineprintmagazine.com/on-beauty-religion-and-decay/ accessed 12/08/2107.


Key Details:
Exhibition Title: 'Soft Spot, Hard Feelings'
Artists: Sundari Carmody, Anna Horne, Matt Huppatz, Deborah Prior, Carly Snoswell, Min WongLauren Abineri, Celeste Aldahn, Thomas Capogreco, Alison Currie, Ray Harris, Pony Horseman, Henry Jock Walker, Luke Wilcox and Winter Witches, curated by Ray Harris.
Venue: Holy Rollers Studios (69 Prospect Rd Prospect, 5082)
Dates: 2nd - 19th August (Wed-Fri 2-6pm, Sat-Sun 1-5pm, Performance Night 19 Aug 6-10pm)