"That song channelled all of my simmering rage—at dickhead little boys, at puberty's onslaught, and at the suffocating wave of feminine expectation about to wash right over me."1
Tracy Clark-Flory's feelings about Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know' will resonate with many of those who came of age around the time that Jagged Little Pill, Morissette's iconic album was popularised. Recorded when Morissette was 19, the lyrics that make up the album were largely drawn from her personal diary.2 In the overwrought, pulsating ballads, Morissette is talking back to a hostile, predatory, male-dominated industry, to ex-lovers and to her multiple selves. Rosie Mudge remembers it as her first CD. It's one of several pop albums whose angsty, euphoric and emotionally exposed lyrics flicker and reverberate through Mudge's twinkling glitter-fade pastel paintings.
While the shock, thrill and torment of coming of age is not limited to millennials, Mudge's work draws on the look, feel and sound of the late90's and early 2000's. She associates this time in her own life with forever friendships, intense and shallow first loves and a combination of loneliness, frustration, inspiration and limitlessness – put another way, the overwhelming experience of trying to understand yourself in relation to the world and of being profoundly misunderstood by it.In previous work, Mudge has referred to her teenage room as a space of solace, an escape from the difficulty of being a person. This nostalgic, imagined realm is generative for the artist, a space where you are free from the restraints of expectation and entirely in control. The feeling is supported by music, which enables you to feel with and through others, uninhibited.
Mudge recreates this space in her working process, which requires that she don protective equipment to safeguard against automotive paint and other toxic materials. The safety gear blocks off everything around her: "...added to that are my playlist and headphones...the production process is very physical and gruelling. I usually work for 8 hours at a time without TALKING BACK Text by Chloë Reid stopping. The music I listen to draws out emotions that feed directly into the works. This goes on and on – it's a very special personal time for me."3
In Talking Back regrets, apologies, promises, declarations and begrudging and desperate appeals are matched with empowering and energetic affirmations. The works quote lyrics by Destiny's Child, NSYNC, Britney Spears and the Spice Girls (among others). Each of these messages is inscribed in a smooth glitter gradient set onto a smooth glitter gradient whose colours invert the first. Some of the text, such as 'FORGET ABOUT ME' from the work, 'DON'T YOU'– and 'I'M WRONG AND I'M SORRY'5, is barely visible, whispering (stage whisper) from the canvas. A bold and vigorous triptych directs you to 'RUN, RUN, RUN'6, presenting an alternative to the refuge of your teenage room or headphones. Mudge's crumpled paintings reflect a similar impulse– that is, to discard your feelings, to crumple them up, to un-feel. The failure of the attempt to do any of these things is etched into the creases of the canvas.The shimmering surfaces of Mudge's paintings resound with the soft, polished edges of the pop music she references. Its memorable refrains and melodies invite you into a space of intense emotion but release you before too long.If early adolescence is a time when we begin to decide or realise who we are, the space of pop music allows us to feel and imagine ourselves, beyond our realities. What does it mean for this music to evoke so much feeling in us, long past the point of adolescence? Does it resonate because it marks a point of realisation about ourselves in relation to everyone and everything else? Perhaps it's because we are reminded of an impulse to talk back, slam doors and disappear into our rooms, to run away. Not only preteens need to hear that everything is gonna be fine fine fine.
Text by Chloë Reid
Press release courtesy SMAC Gallery.
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