Justene Williams: The Curtain Breathed Deeply; MUMA
A wise friend once remarked nonchalantly: “Life is tough and then you get a shitty boyfriend”. The choice of who you show almost all of yourself to, is the curating that most affects life. Dating is curating with your private parts and P-Parts often override your conscious, thinking self.
Another of life’s little mysteries is the creative impulse itself. It doesn’t always come from a butterflies and chocolate cakes kind of place. It can raise its angry head from the depths of emotional despair and rejection too. It takes a brave artist though, to admit that the pain of a break up was the impetus for a huge surge in creative output.
Within the fine confessional/self help tradition of much feminist work, Sydney based artist Justene Williams stares down the demise of a relationship and uses it to her advantage. She unleashes a torrent of mayhem and frustration, the theatrical overtures of which spilled out into real life at the opening on Saturday arvo. The art is large video installations, a lot of dressing up and masking, a fluorescent and dense palette pimping up surrealist play. Acting out and acting up. Everyone’s onstage and I’m not sure who the Director is. Or even if there is one.
On screen chaos abounds and we hope the gaffer can hold the stage curtain together because behind the scenes, things are reaching fever pitch. The Given That/You put a spell on mine/ Uterus work is, of course, a stand out. There’s a lot of room in the womb.
Artists like to date artists almost as much as they like to date curators. It’s the Relational Aesthetic that it’s unprofessional to mention anywhere except off the record. If you can wait it out till everyone’s very old or dead, the dynamic shifts considerably on, from gossip into the more prestigious territory of social history. You can spill it all and maybe get on a Bestseller List (note to self).
You won’t read in a catalogue essay: I’ve been through a really hard time personally, and my art is better/worse the wear for it, even though that’s the truth of the matter and probably your audience should be informed of it. Like a weather report, artists could get a compulsory psyche report before each major exhibition.
Worse than being an out-of-work artist, is being an out of work artist whose artist-partner’s career is going off. Too many chooks, not enough crumbs. Not all artists are egocentric wankers. Just most of us. In the artist-on-artist career success scale, women fare worse than their male counterparts historically. Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner; Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst; Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst; Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy; Albert Tucker; Joy Hester and Lee Miller and Man Ray.
It’s not that the female artist partners weren’t there, they just weren’t acknowledged, supported, encouraged. I don’t need to mention this though as it’s all changed. It’s hard to be an artist when an invisibility cloak is thrown over your head. Justene made herself a Hi Viz cloak and it’s big and bright. Actually now you can’t miss her or her work.
MUMA continues its generous new tradition of hosting a celebratory function within their premises, where friends and family celebrate the creative achievements of the artists on show. Justene’s handsome new installation works, speak to affairs of a broken heart. Boyfriends come and go but art is forever.
Justene Williams The Curtain Breathed Deeply till 2nd April