October - December 2008
‘I’m a monkey mmmmman’
Monkey Man by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Point finale is the full stop in French punctuation, as in English, it is visually described by a dot. It is the final stop to a passage of text.
The images that are scattered throughout the stairwell of the Drawing Space in Building 49 at RMIT are comprised of dots, dots of domestic dust and pastel dust swept from the floors of my studios, these drawings are transient, they will wash easily off the walls.
In the mid 1980s when I began doing images of reflective duality – like a Narcissus or a Swan – I developed the habit of tracing the original freehand drawing and transferring it in reverse to a secondary drawing. The process I used called spolvero, was commonplace amongst fresco and mural painters who punctured holes along the outlines of a cartoon drawing in order to powder silhouettes and details onto a section of wall. I have memories from school of my geography teacher using this process with chalk dust to transfer complex maps of the world to the blackboard.
I now have many tracings and considered these as a ready made work for installation when given this opportunity. In the early 1990s I had painted 100 monkeys on 100 canvases for another project, these were titled anima sola and they presented our most familiar sibling creature, the monkey, with its similar physiology, cavorting, crawling and cowering in oblivious two dimensional oblivion.
Although few of these had previously been duplicated they nevertheless became the model for another dozen designs of the diminutive self, mocked by its own curling tail, furling and unfurling like a party whistle or hovering like a question mark above itself.
After placing an initial dozen monkeys I surrendered the tracings and invited my assistants to concoct whatever choreographies they wished from this troop of the absurd.
One image is an exception to the theatre of monkeys. This is the 3 metre dotted figure of a human male figure in vertical headlong fall, a variation from the version of 1981. There are many reasons why a figurative and melancholic artist like myself might be drawn toward the monkey image or the spectacle of fall. Breaking my neck by fall in the folly of my youth is now a remote reference for the latter. For the former I would cite the final scene from Werner Herzogs’ Aguirre Wrath of God. In this extraordinary film Klaus Kinski as the armoured conquistador is overrun by scampering monkeys on his scuttled raft amid the corpses of his men and the indifference of the vast jungle and the great Amazon River. Nobility and ignobility are perversely reversed in this absurd finale that appears to position aspects of evolutionary genealogy in confused and irreverent order.
In the early nineties when I developed the initial suite of the anima sola monkey images, my intention (partly fulfilled) was to present them in two large triangular wall installations so that in pyramidal formation they represented an evolutionary genealogy or tree of man and in the second presentation as upturned triangular assembly they formed an institutional hierarchy like a feudal pyramid with serfs below and monarch above, though without any distinguishing features of status. The vertical passage of the stairwell of the Drawing Space with its facility for ascension and descension, is a site compatible with these intentions. Nevertheless, despite the gravitas, this is a whimsical installation of a quite subtle graffiti.
In addition to the manager of the Drawing Space Andre Liew I wish to thank; Sean Crossley, Tyler Clark, Sarah Duyshart, Yena Jung, Alice Parker, Andre Piguet, Allyson Perham, Kate Price and Jean Wong for their generous assistance.
Contributing Rmit Drawing Students