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Exhibition review Example- Curious Colony, A twenty first century Wunderkammer

Exhibition review for Red Bubble-Example
Shown from July 10th until August 29th, 2010 at the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery is a contemporary art exhibition titled Curious Colony, A twenty first century Wunderkammer. This exhibition has been curated by Lisa Slade. This exhibition delves into the idea of the Wunderkammer, a cabinet or chamber of curiosity or wonder, the act of collecting artefacts. This exhibition also delves into the colonialisation in Australia through contemporary art in response to the Macquarie Collectors’ Chest. In New South Wales in 1818 a cabinet of colonial curiosities The Macquarie Chest was created for the then Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
The contemporary artists in this exhibition include the art of Fiona Hall, Danie Mellor, Lionel Bawden, Kate Rhode, Joan Ross, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Robyn Stacey, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Esme Timbery, Philip Wolfhagen, Louise Weaver and colonial artists Walter Preston, Joseph Lycett and TR Browne. In response to The Macquarie chest, The Newcastle chest, 2010, closed 53 × 71 × 46 cm, Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata), River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), NSW rosewood (Dysoxylum fraserianum), and glass, tartan and brass fittings was made with a contemporary approach to the art and a historical approach to the making of the cabinet itself; as the chest was made to the same proportions as the original chest. This creates a pairing of the history and past of Australian colonialisation and the issues that are faced by these five contemporary artists involved with the Newcastle chest today.
Contemporary artists in this exhibition push the idea of colonial interests in this exhibition with contemporary artists using their own heritage, experiences and artistic concepts to depict and influence their works of art for the exhibition. Chosen for this exhibition because of the artists’ conceptual ideas of using their own heritage and experiences is Colombian born, Sydney based artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso. Cardoso connects with entomological worlds in her artwork which is a concealed draw in The Newcastle Chest, 2010. Cardoso’s artwork in the chest hides her insight of insects, spiders, butterflies and beetles that are seen in the Macquarie chest.
In this artwork Cardoso chose to focus on the insects that happen to be not seen in the Macquarie chest. These insects that hold such inspiration for Cardoso are insects that mimic their environment and camouflage themselves as a survival technique in their own environment. Cardoso finds this concept a direct metaphor of the societal demands that are placed on the individual to incorporate or blend in with. Cardoso is a migrant in Australia and feels these same demands as an outsider to fit in with Australian society to be accepted. Cardoso uses pattern and symmetry as a visual deception as the insects look like patterned leaves attached to branches. This representation of pattern is Cardoso’s way of morphing into everyone else. This is a way of hiding heritage from people who do not accept those who are different. The compartmentalisation of the draws in the chest suggests containment and division of cultural difference. The cultural difference that is divided by the draws provokes feelings of being different for Cardoso as an outsider in society.
The idea of curiosity and Wunderkammer is embedded in this exhibition. The cabinets of curiosity along with artworks of curiosity and intrigue are together pushing the past and present together in an exhibition that shows history of Australia’s colony and native animal, flora and fauna collections. The artists have used collection practices and display techniques to show a wide variety of Australian culture. This includes the treatment and fascination with Australian objects and the colonisation of Australia. The past of Australian culture has been put together with the present with the pairing of past and contemporary artworks and artists.

Bibliography:
Catalogue information, The Newcastle Region Art Gallery
Wall notes accompanying the exhibition

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