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Exhibition review- Caroline Rothwell ‘Exotopos’ GRANTPIRRIE, Sydney 2009
Caroline Rothwell’s exhibition Exotopos is a triumphant menagerie of displaced species; a shadow-land; a fractured utopia, which speaks equally of lost histories and a bleak future. The title of Rothwell’s ongoing series of ‘lexicons’- large silhouettes cut from black industrial PVC, a suspended series of impotent vistas form a possible framework for thinking of the individual works in the show. Each work feels like a ‘noun’ fallen from contemporary usage, evoking the shadows burnt onto walls as bodies were vaporized in an atomic blast, unable to find refuge in the white cube.
The titles refer a ‘creature of exotopos’ or ‘a man of exotopos’, not creatures whose names are known. Their extinction inhabits the absolute space of lost information and forgetting. Entering the installation feels like navigating one’s way toward the altar of a cathedral. The entrance is guarded by the 3 dogs of exotopos (the lost Tasmanian tigers) each denying entry into the defunct portals of the suspended lexicons. The lexicons in turn form a gateway to a high table of devotional, small-scale sculptures- a reliquary of trees, animals and arboreal animal hybrids. The works themselves are made precious by their silvery patinas and a scale, which reflects the tenderness of their creation. Rothwell delicately stitches the small sculptures by hand from old pillowcases (the housings of lost dreams) then filling this mould with fiery amalgam, consuming the cotton in a baptism by fire for each individual creature.
Rothwell’s exhibition feels strangely optimistic, whilst harbouring a lingering darkness. The metal sculptural inhabitants of the artist’s lost universe are sexy and endearing, the creatures awkward and elegant at once. The flaccid lexicons feel akin to the ‘acme holes’ from childhood cartoons. You can relocate the black silhouettes from place to place, merely removing them from their box and positioning them to create the illusion of some distant paradise. However when you really need to penetrate it’s skin to escape this reality, to leap into the black hole, you discover that it is a mere cut out, a solid sheet of black plastic. No quick get away. No easy escape.
Lionel Bawden 2009
Published online April 2009.
link to Caroline Rothwell’s work