“A Cautionary Tale” – an artistic collaboration between Geraldine Searles and Marlies Pekarek.
Ailing from radical and free-thinking Byron Bay, Geraldine Searles made Newcastle her home 8 years ago, despite having “trouble finding her tribe and fitting in artistically and socially.”
This is about to change as a natural symmetry between Searles’ lack of interest in the “serious gallery mentality” and Curve’s irreverent approach to displaying art was bound to strike a chord with this illustration artist.
With a background in installations and public art, it’s to the much smaller scale of comics that Searles keeps getting drawn back. Comics as socio-political tools, comics as poems, comics as an intellectual process.
Just over 6 years ago, Searles began a long-lasting artistic collaboration with Swiss contemporary artist, Marlies Pekarek. Based in St Gallen, Switzerland, Pekarek’s practice spans across a wide range of media: drawing, sculpture, photography, collage and installation.
The two artists met in Byron Bay in 1993, at a time when Pekarek was studying in Australia. Aware of having very different practices, the artists remained friends until 2005 when their friendship evolved into what would become a 6 year long artistic collaboration.
So what did an illustrator with a knack for “funny, absurd and sad” comics from sunny Byron have in common with an established contemporary artist from the mountain town of St Gallen?
“A shared interest in religious iconography, a fiery temper and above all, a sense of fun and a tendency to play with things a lot,” cites Searles in an attempt to understand how they were able to pull off this “accidental collaboration”.
“The collaboration started as a cross-over between contemporary art and something closer to craft,” explains Pekarek, “comics shift between high art and a product for consumption in newspapers.”
Placing religious representation at the heart of her practice, and inspired by the ephemeral products used in religious ceremonies – hot cross buns, candles, three kings cake – Pekarek was busy creating sculptures modeled from sugar, chocolate, soap, wax and became interested in the “stories” Searles would build around these, within the constraints of the tryptic format Searles has adopted over the years.
Entering a transformative process, from 2D to 3D and back, Pekarek would scan her sculpted sugar figurines and Searles would then respond by building intricately drawn worlds and stories around them, shifting, transforming and through the process, infusing layers of meaning into the figures.
Evolving from a project entitled “Madonnas, Queens and other Heroes”, the work eventually changed focus and began an interpreted “journey of the sugar queen”, the pink saccharine heroine of “A Cautionary Tale”.
Beyond the images which have been collated into a beautiful artist’s book, lies the “invisble” process of endless transformations and games, as well as steps of the more practical type.
“I spent huge amounts of time running around, visiting the sugar factory which makes jelly babies to produce a sugar mass in the right color, easy to pour and which would last. For the candles, I needed to have moulds cast by hand. The workers had to be specially trained to make these casts. There were many people involved with this project, people who have nothing to do with art,” explains Pekarek.
This process, crossing over between art and craft, which is embodied into the work whilst completely hidden is an integral part of turning daily objects – soap, candles, chocolate – into art. Furthermore, as the final product eventually disappears, it is the process – the moulds and casts – which ultimately remain. The tool becomes the artwork, while the work vanishes.
Fueled by the naturally curious minds of the artists and driven by an intuitive, almost instinctual approach, it seems that this “accidental” collaboration could go on forever, endlessly traveling across hemispheres, seasons, media, practices but “A Cautionary Tale” is in fact a finished piece, which culminated with the production of a series of exquisite lithographs.
“The Carnivale is Over”, the conclusion of 6 years of explorative work, depicts a carousel spinning furiously, capturing a distorted sugar queen in its spiraling wake.
The artists are not sure what comes next as they both focus on their own projects, books of collected works in both cases.
So, will the artists continue their collaboration? “Marlies has applied for a studio at La Cite des Arts in Paris. We might work side by side for a period of time but together? It would have to be something… thrilling.” They both agree and as for us, we can only hope.
Website: Geraldine Searles
A Cautionary Tale is an international book launch and exhibition featuring Geraldine Searles (Australia) and Marlies Pekarek (Switzerland). The artists have collaborated internationally for the past 6 years and will launch their second publication from their collaboration, ‘A Cautionary Tale’ with an exhibition to include original drawings, lithographs and sculptures from their respective art practices. Both Publications will be available for sale and the artists will be there to sign your copy.
The Exhibition will include Artists Books by Newcastle Artists- Lezlie Tilley, Paul Maher and Eleanor Jane Robinson.
Curve Gallery – 37 Watt st. Newcastle.
Opening Night/Book Launch : Friday 23rd November 2012 6 – 9pm
Exhibition dates: 24th November– 15th December 2012, Thursday – Saturday 1-7PM
Sculpture demonstration: Saturday 1st December 2 – 4PM
An opportunity to meet the artists. They will discuss their creative collaborative art practice and demonstrate the making of wonderful sculptures from surprising materials.