Now the heart is filled
with gold as if it were a purse
Arts Project Australia, 11 October – 29 November 2014
Curator: Glenn Barkley
About the exhibition:
'In an art world that idealises toughness (rather than spiritedness), ugliness, shock, even anger and hatred, I see young art students struggle every day as they make these qualities internalised shoulds. The question that intrigues me now is: ‘what would women really paint (or perform or install or sculpt or write or curate) if they did it from their heart of hearts?’
Micky Allan, from Gael Newtown, ‘The Movement of Women’ in Art and Australia, vol. 33, no.1, Spring 1995, p.64
Now the heart is filled with gold as if it were a purse includes artists and artworks speaking of two important concepts, love and family. These two concepts touch each one of us as individuals, but are sometimes hidden within the cynical world of contemporary art.
The title of the exhibition comes from a song recorded by Bob Dylan and The Band, Tears of Rage. I feel that the lyrics of this song share a message of love, of a heart filled to the brim that rattles and shakes and feels fecund.
I respond to the lyric of this song in different ways. One response is to acknowledge the collective feel of the context in which it was recorded. It is a part of the cycle of songs known as the Basement Tapes, which were made in a familial way: relaxed, informal and loose. Dylan’s vast knowledge of the history of American music is like a well that he and his fellow musicians – themselves steeped in the same history – keep dipping into.
My other response is to the alarming lyrics that is classic Dylan, full of rich imagery. But the sneer, which I think is so prevalent in Dylan’s work, is downplayed. The song seems to be about the relationship between children and their parents – the betrayals and the complications of this relationship. It suggests: ‘now the heart is full, will you steal it?’
Love and family are a rich, fertile part of life that continues to drive contemporary music and theatre. However, the contemporary visual art world seems to studiously avoid the grit and texture of the familial and is increasingly relying instead on spectacle, publicity and clever insider references. When it does approach this, it’s often at the form of inclusive, feel good conceptualism, which feels more about Instagram or branding, than reality.
I believe that the two topics of love and family are so enormous and daunting that this could be a reason for avoiding them. How do you try and tackle them in a real way that is direct and honest without falling in to the trap of over sentimentalisation?
Without attempting to be evasive, I want the exhibition to work within the same ambiguity that is suggested by the cryptic lyric of its title. I hope that it has the feeling of being loved and formed in a way that is if full of holes; imperfect and contradictory like a type of collective family portrait.
Glenn Barkley, 2014