The Curious Case of Judy Darragh - Artworld Darling and Market Outlier
At close to 60, Darragh is as popular in the artworld as she always has been – still generating work as fresh and lively as her fake fur and phallic pink jelly moulds in the late 80’s. Her signature aesthetic remains bright fluoro colour and everyday materials re-presented in a low-fi, uplifting sort of way. She has always been with spirit. Darragh shows make you smile, and Ummm is no exception.
Papercraft, a series of photographs, is all about colour and paper – the paper hand folded then digitally photographed. Notions of analogue and digital are being toyed with here, as each acknowledges and gestures towards the other. Then in the suites Green Gaze and Clear Light, cut agates and wonderfully varied crystals sit in puddles of bubbly silicon on sprayed areas of colour or glass. Form is variously dense, colourful, and at times attractively seen through. The Bomb is exactly that – an explosion of colour and texture – a bomb of a painting. As she has done before, abstraction as a paradigm is given a terrific re-working. Even the tradition of Op-art is humorously made over in the stretched nylons of Blue Stockings 1 – 5.
Curiously, Darragh’s work is still as cheap as chips and slightly difficult to place. I wonder if she has been pigeon-holed as a subversive, and therefore the work not worthy of really serious market attention. Within the industry she is (again) on the cover of the latest Art New Zealand, and Te Papa Tongarewa presented a mid-career survey and major publication of her work back in 2004. Is her lack of market traction to do with the innate tenor of her work – its humour – which is genuine and therefore temperamentally very hard to change? Or is it simply because she’s a woman working in a small market and not in the established traditions of oil painting?
Maybe her shows are too full or varied, or in need of an edit? She did jest that Ummm looked like a Judy Darragh group show. But in this regard too, she is utterly consistent. Perhaps I should go frame a couple? The Papercraft works may appeal more if they were tastefully framed. And another note to self: seek out the younger collectors…JS
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.