Intimate encounters at 30upstairs

Viewing the three new shows at 30upstairs for the first time on a Thursday morning in silence and solitude made for an intimate experience, one privileged to me as I had missed the opening and happened to be there on a rainy and wet day that was keeping everyone else away. While I don’t recommend missing openings I do recommend taking some time to sit with the three shows with less of a crowd; Ruru by Denise Batchelor, Back Stitch (Flying Geese) by Caroline McQuarrie, and Familiaris by Angela Singer.


Denise Batchelor, Ruru, 2011. HD video, duration 02:59

Ruru is a video work projected onto the wall at large scale. For me it was a one-on-one experience. To sit and be confronted with the scale of undulating feathers and dilating pupils in Batchelor’s work made me feel privileged to be able to observe such a beautiful creature while simultaneously being confronted with my lack of knowledge about things with feathers. I do not understand the bird’s movements or pupil adjustments, or the reason those soft feathers lift and relax as it quizzically rotates its head in that unsettling way. It was like meeting the ‘other’ and being confronted with gaps in my own knowledge, and even my sense of self.


Caroline McQuarrie, Back Stitch (Flyring Geese), 2012. Stop motion video projected on quilt, 150×150 cm, duration 09:20

McQuarrie’s work offers a different sort of intimacy. Back Stitch (Flying Geese) is a layered and personal narrative, one that quickly reminded me of the hum of a sewing machine with my mother bend forwards with her hands constantly working fabric and thread. Drawing her own mother into the video work by projecting on to her hand-made quilt, McQuarrie patterns thread and colour over imagery of land and trees resulting in a fascinating amalgamation of home and nature, memory and object. This work offers many narratives, and is one worth spending time sitting with.


Angela Singer, Bird Shot, 2013. Wool, silk, cotton, 175 x 170 mm

And then over to Familiaris, which I initially found somewhat overwhelming despite how it seems to enhance the beautiful natural light in the gallery more so than normal. As I adjusted to the presence of other creatures hanging out in the space, it became more comfortable. There is an intensity to Singer’s objects, evident in the hours that have been invested in fixing tiny things to dead things, and stitching colourful lines (again I am reminded of my Mother) to shape colourful horrors of animals in the throes of killing and dying.

So a colourful and thought-provoking trio of shows is currently up for viewing at 30upstairs. Make the most of the longer days to spend a little time with beautiful objects and video works that will question the familiar and challenge sensibilities.

Laila O’Brien

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