‘Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation … Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a grey vegetation’.
Jean Arp, ‘Sacred Silence’, On My Way (ed. Robert Motherwell, 1948)
Across photography, painting and drawing, Petrina Hicks, Robin Eley, and Yanni Floros examine how we distance ourselves from our humanity in contemporary life. Flattened and defined by form and colour, Petrina Hicks’ photographic series Greyscale emphasises the artificiality and fragility of the human body existing between ‘being’ and ‘object’. Painted in oils and segregated from their fellow humans in cellophane prisons, reference points removed, it is not certain whether the naked figures could be unwrapped, are about to be subsumed, or will forever be suspended in a plastic stasis – this is the question Robin Eley poses of our contemporary humanness in this age of digital materialism. In Yanni Floros’s charcoal drawings all sense of intimacy, empathy or vulnerability is denied by the complete immersion of the girls in their own world. How do you approach these humans? You are left simply with the texture and fall of their hair and clothes to make a connection.
In the flesh
In the flesh is an enthralling and immersive experience of contemporary art that confronts the concept of humanness and the experiences of consciousness and emotion. Featuring ten Australian artists including Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Michael Peck, the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance.