SENTIMENTAL BLOKES 2014 / Sawtooth Gallery, Launceston (Tasmania)
The title for this body of work is a reference to both the silent film The Sentimental Bloke (1919), and the poem it was based on by C.J. Dennis (1915). However as it relates to my work, the choice of title carries with it a certain ironic tone. For unlike the protagonist of the poem and film, Bill a larrikin Aussie bloke who eventually comes good, my sentimental blokes remain in a state of violent, unresolved flux.
The sentimentality on display in my work is not that of forgiveness or compassion but rather a sentimentality born of violence and despair. Above all, it is the sentimental desire to escape from our ideological selves. In relation to my work, it is specifically concerned with the performance of Australian heterosexual masculinity and its fraught relationship to the patriarchal norm.
Like a manifestation of Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image, the reanimation of the spectral form of convict masculinity within a contemporary context generates a moment of dissonant displacement. This juxtaposition of past and present opens up the historical undercurrents of melancholic fear and violence that have gone into and continue to inform the construction of Australian masculinity.
However, in my work these sentimental monstrous convicts in all their melancholic failure exist within a carnivalesque aesthetic that inverts the question of origin and lack, opening up a field of productive possibilities. Here in this comic, anarchic space, the chaos of non-meaning offers up a constellation of as yet unrealised, gendered becomings. This sense of carnivalesque becoming is addressed in Sentimental Blokes through the use of vernacular materials, the comic figuration of various convict and historical figures, the deliberate clunky aesthetic and the use of high-key colour. This use of high-key colour along with the other aesthetic elements acts as a counterpoint to the violence addressed in my work.