Final days of Scylla and Charybdis

By: turner galleries

May 26 2011

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Category: exhibitions, news

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Don’t miss our current exhibition before it closes on Saturday 4 June.  Andrew Nicholls and Susan Flavell are creating some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic artworks in Perth. Their individual solo exhibitions are linked by common themes and materials.

In Greek legend, the journey of Jason and the Argonauts represented the first true international voyage: the Argo was the first ship capable of making a lengthy journey by sea, and the crew’s mission – to retrieve the Golden Fleece – the first time ‘the West’ had gone abroad in search of imperial wealth and power. On their journey, the Argonauts encountered a dangerous world filled with the threat of the monstrous foreign ‘other’, including Scylla and Charybdis, two hideous sea monsters lurking on either side of a narrow straight.

Scylla was a beautiful nymph transformed into a fierce monster with multiple heads, tentacles and a tail, including six snarling wolf heads growing from her waist. Charybdis, an equally-beautiful naiad, was turned into a hideous, bladder-like creature whose continual gulping and belching of seawater created powerful whirlpools. Vessels passing through the straight would have to negotiate a safe passage between the two creatures; steering away from one would send a ship directly toward the other. The phrase ‘between a rock and a hard place’ is thought to have originated from the phrase ‘between Scylla and Charybdis’. This exhibition presents the work of two artists, Susan Flavell and Andrew Nicholls, who similarly challenge the viewer to navigate a safe passage between their works.

Both artists have recently begun working within the medium of ceramics – a material rich with imperial and colonial associations. Flavell’s practice has always been obsessed by the creation of hybrid creatures and monsters. Her ceramic objects depict a range of such fantastic creatures, playing upon the medium’s history as a material reserved for emperors and aristocrats. Like Scylla, many of Flavell’s ceramic forms are hybridised, or have multiple animal heads erupting from them. Nicholls’ works are inspired by the medium of commercially-produced ceramics, an industry whose history is intricately tied to international expansion and colonisation. His works explore Western culture’s paranoia regarding the foreign ‘other’ and the dangers that have accompanied our culture’s insatiable desire to colonise and conquer, symbolised by ominous nautical imagery, including Charybdis’ vortex-like whirlpool.

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