Sleep of reason

Aldo Iacobelli’s long day’s journey into night continues to beat the boundaries of conscious control. The artist needs little introduction to a critical audience, which has stayed the course with the artist over a 30-year period. This audience will be rewarded for its loyalty by numerous citations in this exhibition of motifs and ideas, which have defined Iacobelli as an artist of outstanding originality and integrity.

So is this a reheat of the ‘old’ Iacobelli? Hardly. The darkness, both retinal and expressive, which loured over the earliest of his massive drawings, is still here. This is a dark show. But it is a darkness tempered by the curiosity of a traveller in strange place, with night falling and the way ahead uncertain. The large wall installation, My days, consisting of dozens of oddly matched framed drawings, holds the exhibition together by acting as a kind of open diary – not of daily events but the sleep of reason which, as Goya fans will know, produces monsters. 

This is a domain that Iacobelli watchers will find very interesting indeed because it takes everyone into that room in the house where the shadows rule. Here the imagination is fuelled by strange conjunctions of events and disturbing hybridities like a headless ghost, fingers sprouting trees, a wheel chair falling off a cliff, people dragging rocks on ropes and wind turbines rising like doomsday machines above a forest.

Elsewhere in this exhibition odd scenarios, a number of them involving forests, perpetuate this sense of mischief unhinged. Another set of drawings is titled A tale from the Lower South East of South Australia. In these drawings forests drive the visual agenda. Pine forests with their regulated rows and snap to grid clearings are the staple for any artist musing on humanity’s dream of total subjugation of nature.

In Iacobelli’s images diminutive figures and dogs wander in nervous anticipation of what’s to come. Fearfulness. That’s it. It permeates this exhibition like a gnawing anxiety about centres not holding and base behavior (like the issues with cultural difference burnt with inquisitorial intensity into the crudest of wooden flasks) and I’m sorry, no good will come of it. Except art. Not art that’s cute or clever or polemical. Iacobelli is above all that. What you are given, if you have a mind to accept it, is the gift of letting go. Of displacing one’s sense of the normal and the customary tricks that enable clever artists to serve up something palatable.

Catalogue essay writer Nikos Papastergiadis has this as a ‘grim focus and pensive distillation’. Nowhere is this better expressed than in a work, Potato Eaters, which resemble a late 1990s series by the artist called Pornographic Drawings. This series was based on lacework items such as tablecloths that the artist had sourced locally while living in Valencia. Similar lacework configurations drive the design, articulated in trademark painterly brushwork. But the ‘object’ (the lace) looks stressed and is distorted as if acted upon by internal forces. This kind of ambivalence infects the entire exhibition and erupts in a mordant allegory on self-serving materialism, Birdbath deluxe, in which ablution effigies conspire to provide an absolute shower.

Aldo Iacobelli
In the Shadow of Forgetting
SASA Gallery
Continues until Friday, March 22

Image: Food, 2013, Photograph, Toby Richardson



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