'At 28, the way I understand my body has become equal parts sexual and nurturing. Pleasure and desire are entwined in sex and the possibility of children. Food is the lens through which I primarily make sense of this dichotomy; the body as producer, and source of nutrition- and the body as consumer and recipient of love.
Last year as a way of escaping from a failing relationship I spent much of my time wandering local bushland and a huge cemetery where wild guavas trees were fruiting. Guava Season reminds me of a time spent pondering all the ideas in this show in relation to my own life'
Elizabeth Willing 2017
The installation of Swollen Roots requires viewers to be behind the curtain first, in its internal space, inside the body. To access the gallery the viewer must push past the curtain, touching, pulling, grabbing, or pinching it. Once inside the backroom space the viewer can see in its entirety the design of the body, and must again touch and participate to get back out of the space.
Potato printing is something I did as a child.
I have experimented with many types of potato printing over the past 6-7 years, but was most intrigued when working with the kipfler potato, the pretentious small potato that seemed to me to embody the food fads of around five years ago. I am interested in how the market, and therefore farming, is determined by demand informed by what is in fashion in cookbooks and on TV. I also love how intimate knowledge of ones food has become a rite of passage for the middle class, to be in the know about what foods are healthier, more ethical, sustainable, or fashionable is an achievable and somewhat affordable goal.
The kipfler comes in shapes that for me could be a penis, excrement, or lips. An object that can speak across both sex and eating is a useful one. I elaborate on the shape by cutting it in half and carving simple creased lips into the kipfler, referencing the eating or kissing mouth, but inevitably I create a vagina, or a penis too.
Rings are carved in to create nipples. The artwork is divided into three parts, top third is lips, middle is breasts/nipples, bottom third is lips/vagina/penis. The prints can potentially be read across genders. I see this work in some way as a self-portrait, but do not limit it to that.
I select paint colours at Bunnings chosen for their pink fleshy tones similar to my lips, but I am also somewhat influenced by the names of the colours (clay pot, energy peak, french bow). Though the design is consistent on all curtains, the colours are varied slightly, softer or harsher pinks help reference the changes in skin tone through different emotions. I print on natural seeded fabrics as they easily encourage readings of skin with their natural inconsistencies, freckles, or blemishes.
The potato is where the plant stores it’s energy, to be utilised, or to be eaten by us, there is significance for me in using this appendage of the plant to represent these specific body parts.
In a dining performance context, the Mouth Cups are used to serve drinks to diners as a stand- alone course. In most cases I have opted for a beverage that can be served at body temperature. The cup is handed directly from waiter to diner, there is nowhere to rest the cup as it has a curved base, so the diner must maintain their hold, or potentially rest it in their lap which continues to keep it warm. To drink, the diner engages in a kiss, lip to lip the drink is passed from one body to another, like saliva, or breast milk. One body is giving and the other is taking nourishment. Eyes are closed and hands are tightly wrapped around the head/cheeks/chin.
The Mouth Cups embody what it is to care for something/someone, to make something from nothing and hope it doesn’t break, and to give everything until you are empty to ensure the nourishment of the other.
To transform the cups into a sculpture required a new story, the removal of the participant. Instead I have focused on the story of the cups as an object that floats between the art and design. This is exaggerated through the formation of something that looks suspiciously like a coffee table.
Minimalism is extremely important to this work and takes it on another journey, this time engaging in conversation with the minimalistic gestures of Donald Judd that appear as transparent layers between the weightless Mouth Cups. The square glass panels are the structure/scaffolding of the piece, but they are also immaterial, a thought, insubstantial too, and a lens through which to view the cups.
The cups float as if weightless, like bubbles, changing arrangements as you walk around the work, forming new relationships with each other, revealing new compositions and familial structures. The mouths point up, gasping, or kissing, and potentially begging.
For Milk Teeth, I was inspired by the memory of drinking Milo as a child, and the silt lines that collected on the sides of the glass between sips/gulps. These lines are a physical record of consumption; of the frequency with which the drinker picks up the glass, raises it to their lips, and takes the liquid into their body. The space between lines indicates if it was a sip, gulp, or scull, it is a record of their body’s interaction with the drink.
I am interested in an object or image that acts as a record of it’s own making, that shows on its surface the body’s interaction with the material.
My interest in milk additives such as Milo/Ovaltine/Nesquik began by thinking about them as a precursor to futuristic liquid food or tablet nutrition. They could even be thought of as simplified versions of food substitutes such as baby formula, diet shakes, or protein powders. Milk additives are not really recognisable as food, food in a formless state. They are a sugar/nutrient delivery system.
Nestle have a dark history with promoting the use of baby formula over breastfeeding in developing countries which had devastating effects for growing children. This has lead to international boycotts.
Milk Teeth can potentially be read through this lens.
The use of the flat surface raises questions about how it was created. Could the gallery have been flooded with milk? Are these the strata of flood lines? In a similar vein the piece is evocative of the natural layers of rock underground, a cross-section of the earths crust, the material even convincingly dirt-like. Milk Teeth flattens out an image that would usually be convex, displays it on the glass gallery window, rectangular like a painting. The window frame is now a picture frame, and the gallery is the canvas. The application directly to the gallery window exaggerates the ephemerality of the work; it cannot be moved or sold, it must always be remade- never the same.
Elizabeth Willing is an Australian visual artist. In 2009 she completed her honours in Fine Arts (Visual Arts) and is currently undertaking a Masters of Fine Art (research) at Queensland University of Technology
Solo exhibitions and dining performances have been held in Australia and overseas at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, and most recently at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.
Upcoming in 2017, Elizabeth is included in the exhibitions Tastes Like Sunshine Museum of Brisbane, and FOOD at the Trapholt Museum of Art and Design, Denmark; and will undertake a residency at New England Regional Art Gallery.
Awards and grants include Australia Council Project funding (2016), the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship (2013), Australia Council Artstart grant (2012), a JUMP mentoring Scholarship (2010), and the Melville Haysom Scholarship through QAGOMA (2010). In 2014 Elizabeth was the recipient of the Australia Council Kunstlerhaus Bethanien one-year residency, and has undertaken a two month residency at Helsinki International Art Program HIAP, a one year residency at Metro Arts Brisbane, and has undertaken professional development mentorships in New York with Janine Antoni (2011), with the Experimental Food Society in London (2012) and then with Thomas Rentmeister in Berlin (2014).
Elizabeth’s work has been featured in Eyeline, Antipasto, Art Almanac, Appetite, Imprint, Art Fridge, Vice and Critical Mass. She was also notably included in recent publications the Oxford companion to Food, and Experimental Eating.
Born in 1988, Victoria Australia, Guava Season is her first exhibition with Tolarno Galleries, and is a site-specific installation developed specifically for the Tolarno Galleries Backroom.
Press release courtesy Tolarno Galleries.