Dreams in Captivity
12th to 24th March 2013
Global Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
This exhibition of Ian Kingsford-Smith’s exuberant and whimsical artworks explores the ways that memories are constructed. Within this series of paintings and prints he represents his earliest memories of his London childhood spent in Lewisham. The border between personal and collective memory blurs within the artist’s research processes. He shapes faint memories – sifting them through family records and public archives – in an attempt to locate moments of recognition within the wider body of representations produced by others. The inner world of the artist’s childhood was shaped by imagery from popular culture, which coloured his experience of the external world. Reconstructing memories of his childhood was also a process of reconstructing the broader collective imagination of the community he inhabited. The artworks explore how our ability to represent the depths of our personal experiences is over-determined by the body of representations contained with family records and the public realm.
Kingsford-Smith explores how we use dreams and fantasy to escape mundane reality. Images of glamorous people, evoking old Hollywood, hover in front of gritty urban landscapes comprised of anonymous terrace houses and gasometers, which operate as markers of Lewisham’s industrial past. The figures are psychologically disconnected from one another; their sightlines seldom meet, they either look blankly into the middle distance or towards the viewer of the artworks. The gilded lifestyle these figures represent is undercut by the use of pictorial devises, such as accelerated perspective and strong saturated colours, which emphasize the artifice of representations, suggesting that we are witnessing the moment prior to the collapse of the fantasy. This evokes the artist’s experience of the research process within which he attempted to separate out facts from fantasy. It is, however, a mistake to read this as evidence of the artist’s dependency on a model of reality that can be measured empirically. While the desire to retrieve memories of childhood governs the work, the pathway towards reconstructing this distant level of experience is complicated by the understanding that fantasy (both personal and collective) is a vital part of the inner level of our experience of reality. The work as a whole can be viewed as reflection on the complex role of representations in both the formation and retrieval of memories of childhood.
(Paul James, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Works in the exhibition include five paintings (acrylic on wood) 830 x 660 and fourteen etchings (intaglio) 400 x 320.