Cockatoos, Scabs, and Other Tchotchkes
vanitas vanitas omnia vanitas.
vanity is vanity, everything is futility.
Beauty is such an easy quality to take comfort in. Is the pursuit of it an act of vanity or an act of seeking comfort? Its desirable condition affords comfort to those who possess or are able to create it. After all, when all else is fleeting, beauty endures.
Marionne Contreras’ Cockatoos, Scabs, and other Tchotchkes presents works that deliver a poignant yet tongue-in- cheek repartee to the idea that beauty is the idée fixe of art. The artist anchors her work on a notion where in life —where suffering and sadness is guaranteed — should at least be made beautiful.
She articulates ideas of beauty by turning towards nature. A key piece in this exhibition is Galah (poster-bird of hello ugly how are you), a tapestry of a Cockatoo, a specie that is noted for its decorative quality. It is augmented by embroidered photographs of other birds, and nest sculptures that resemble a sense of essential relief that is sought after by an animal from its shelter.
Finding beauty in nature is further explored in her works Sick Man in Jinguashi and romanticisation of an hour-long motorcycle ride (are we there yet?) These embroidered landscapes appear in a window-like vantage where the mind is able to wander. It affords its viewer an opportunity to dwell on the idea of a place that we can only marvel at, without a promise of actually being there.
Contreras acknowledges the context of her work being borne out of the lockdown. In this line of thinking, making beautiful things can’t always be a refuge. Her scab series chronicles a seemingly endless “scab state” we are presently living in — a period between having a wound and healing from it — as the period of coping must evolve into something else eventually.
Cockatoos, Scabs, and other Tchotchkes opens up its viewers to sentiments on beauty as a salve to what we have no control over. It makes for a worthwhile occasion of conversance, as living can be the shortest most difficult task one can do, but it can be done with grace.