“Making sculpture raises questions about the psychic and social dimensions of subject-object relations and proposes different models of space, embodiment and vision. Dwyer’s art broaches these questions, repeatedly intermingling forms, materials, and objects that symbolise the sacred, childhood, and the ‘primitive’ with those that suggest the art and thought of secular modernity. Such unsettling of ontological boundaries and distinctions comprises the organising principle of her practice”.1
Mikala Dwyer’s The Letterbox Marys proposes a speculative symbolism, through which to imagine possible reordering principles of spirituality, thought and belief. Following her previous explorations of superstition, the occult and alchemy, in this exhibition Dwyer turns to the mysterious figure of the Virgin Mary. In this, she considers a repositioning of this historically abstracted and disembodied woman as a possible ‘Co-Redemptrix’. Using this title, the Maronites rethink Mary’s traditional position in relation to Christ and God as with, under, in service of, or viewing her more uneasily, as an equal.
This symbolic vernacular arises through Dwyer’s deft experimentation with symmetry and materiality, as entrancing wall paintings bearing elusive hidden meanings are punctuated by menacing ceremonial architectures. The iconographic is complemented by elemental works such as Earthlings - a speculative alchemic/chemical lab in which mythologically potent substances of Mercury, Holy Water, Salt and Brimstone are contained in askew canisters of Uranium Glass.
In 2014, Michael Taussig described Dwyer’s work, stating “there is some hope, for surely the dead can return, recycled by the artist. In which case, what we may find in the gallery with this art is something akin to spirit possession”.2 Indeed, The Letterbox Marys investigates this proposition, propelling the imagination into a hypothetical space of possession, redemption and worship.
1 Toni Ross, “Embodied Reason, Functionalist Magic, Animate Objects”, ed. Evie Franzidis, Mikala Dwyer: Drawing Down the Moon, Institute of Modern Art, 2014, 76.
2 Michael Taussig, “Art and Magic and Real Magic”, ed. Evie Franzidis, Mikala Dwyer: Drawing Down the Moon, Institute of Modern Art, 2014.
Mikala Dwyer has been exhibiting internationally since 1982. Currently, her work Goldene Bend’er (2013) is on display at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts as part of the exhibition Dead Ringer until 26 December 2015. The artist’s large-scale installation work Square Cloud Compound (2015) was exhibited in ‘Encounters’ at Art Basel Hong Kong earlier this year. Solo exhibitions include The garden of half-life, University of Sydney Art Gallery, Sydney (2014); Goldene Bend’er, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2013); Mikala Dwyer: Panto Collapsar, Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2012); Mikala Dwyer: Drawing Down the Moon, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012); Square Cloud Compound, Hamish Morrison Galerie, Berlin (2010); Moon Garden, Aratoi Museum, Masterton NZ (2008); Black Sun Blue Moon, Hamish Morrison Galeri, Berlin (2007); Mikala Dwyer: an Australian artist’s project, City Gallery Wellington (2002); Mikala Dwyer, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2000).
Group exhibitions include Magnetism, Hazelwood House, Sligo, Ireland (2015); Hall of Half Life, Graz Museum, Austria; 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Cockatoo Island, Sydney (2014); The End of the 20th Century. The Best is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection, Hamburger Banhof, Berlin, Germany (2013); Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); Less is More: Minimal and Post-Minimal Art in Australia, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria (2012); Plus ou moins sorcières 2/3: épreuves ritualisées, La Maison Populaire, Paris (2012); Lost and Found: An Archaeology of the Present, TarraWarra Biennial, Healesville (2008); Mystic Truths, Auckland Art Gallery (2007); Den Haag Sculptuur 2007 De Overkant/Down Under, The Hague (2007); High Tide, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius and Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw; Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia, Hamburger Bahnhoff, Berlin (2003) and OrientATION, 4th International Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul (1995); Australian Perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, curated by Victoria Lynn (1993). In 2009 Dwyer was the recipient of the prestigious Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship Grant. Dwyer’s work has been widely collected by institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Heide Museum of Modern Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Old and New Art. The Letterbox Marys is Mikala Dwyer’s third solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery