There are two new exhibitions on in Melbourne that give centre stage to female artists: Polly Borland’s Polyverse at NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art). Beautifully curated, with a breadth of work, both exhibitions emanate a feeling that there is more to come, a sense of “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.
Australian photographer, Polly Borland (she now lives in Los Angeles) has a well-established reputation for her surreal photo-portraiture. Possibly the best known here is Nick Cave in a blue wig, blue girls’ dress, stockinged face with over-painted lips, in the NGV’s permanent collection. While I was familiar with how she distorts or camouflages the face to create her portraiture, I hadn’t seen the extraordinary works, the Monster series, where the body is abstracted using constricting elasticised fabric to create something inhuman, extreme in shapes, while colourful and sculptural.
Equally mesmerising is the Tapestries series, where Polly’s photographs were re-created in tapestries by prison inmates, with the aim of foster their well-being. The tapestries are displayed to show both front and back of the needlework, the front being an accurate depiction, with the back highlighting the physical act of creating the work, where thread crosses and inter-weaves.
Polly Borland’s most recent works (2018) titled MORPH, further challenge the concept of abstracting the human form. These photographic works are three – even four – dimensional. On approach, the shapes are unidentifiable. As you move past, the experience is one of amorphous to realistic. Descriptions of these works address psychoanalysis from the nebulous to images created in the mind. All Polly Borland’s work has a visual language, engaging an intensity, curiosity. With MORPH, she takes it one step further and guides you through the process. Fabulous!
It’s special stepping into an exhibition where the sculptures say “my space”. That’s how I felt walking into Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos exhibition at ACCA. Each room is a whole, but each work is distinctly different in structure and medium. They’re linear, architectural, probing, urging you to firstly, take in the mass, then closely discover.
Irish-born Eva Rothschild (she resides in London) explores numerous materials to create form, scale and textures. As a visualizer, possibilities seem endless to her. Kosmos is such a welcoming experience, I didn’t want to leave.
Polly Borland Polyverse exhibition – NGV, until 3 February 2019. https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/polly-borland
Eva Rothschild Kosmos exhibition – ACCA, until 25 November 2018. acca.melbourne/exhibition/now-next
© 2018 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo