Current Issue #488

Barbara Chalk explores the dark side

Barbara Chalk, See, Speak, Hear, 2019, ink on paper

Domestic violence and personal vulnerability are explored in two art series by Barbara Chalk.

In her first major exhibition at a commercial gallery, Adelaide-based artist Barbara Chalk presents two bodies of work: The Hare Series and The Pedestal Series, with the former exploring issues relating to domestic violence and the latter looking at personal challenges in developing an art practice.

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Chalk studied illustration and design before migrating to Australia some 30 years ago. While Chalk works in many different media including oils and acrylic and digital and assemblage art, her preferred medium is drawing, where she feels a greater connection to the surface she is working on.

The Hare Series comprises drawings created using ballpoint pen on board. The works address issues surrounding domestic violence , bullying and the influence of social media. Chalk uses the hare as a vehicle that is non-confronting and represents the vulnerable. Humans often have greater empathy towards animals than people, so Chalk is using the hare as a way of presenting a difficult topic in the hope of making people look at it more deeply.

Barbara Chalk, His Master’s Voice, 2019, ink on paper

“On appearance, the images might look very innocent and cute, but there is a dark side to what I am trying to put across,” says Chalk. “The message behind each image is a strategy used by abusers in controlling and manipulating those who are vulnerable.”

Created using mixed media, The Pedestal Series consists of more personal and allegorical works. “I love the uncertainty of the outcome. While using pen is very controlled, working with mixed media can be almost accidental in its outcome because I can’t control it to the same level. I like that juxtaposition of control and letting something emerge,” explains Chalk.
The Pedestal Series is representative of the precariousness of presenting oneself as an artist to a wider audience. “I have always practised art and made a living off my creative work but I have not been represented by galleries, so The Pedestal Series captures that vulnerability as well as the feelings of instability of moving countries,” states Chalk.

Barbara Chalk: Works on paper
31 January – 15 February

Jane Llewellyn

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