The Finkelstein Files: In My Room

“Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.”

– from ‘The House’ by Warsan Shire

In My Room is the telling title of Helen Gory’s newest body of works – at once an invitation and a provocation. Strongly symbolist in nature and style, she has created a blueprint that challenges the viewer to encroach on her personal space; both as audience and interrogator.

Gilt-laden images are scratched into the paper, challenging its singular appearance. I am reminded of Austrian-born artist Gustav Klimt, who once said something like ‘art is a line around your thoughts’. This idea resonates throughout Gory’s works, which are at once deeply personal and universal. Draw a line; make a point; take a stand; risk something.

Gory’s oil-stick women delve backwards into unrevealed pockets of spaces, memories compartmentalised into separate ‘rooms’. Her challenge – and ours – is to slowly, carefully unpack these subtle chimeras; expose their interior to the outer world. Woman with Leaf speaks loudest without uttering a word. Verging on naïve, these night-shade women hover between darkness and illumination. Their talisman tools may well be props; striking a pose that both regales and invites us inside.

Helen Gory opened her own contemporary commercial art gallery in 1995. Helen Gory Galerie was a pioneer in supporting emerging practitioners, many of whom have gone on to become Australia’s leading visual artists. In 2008, Gory closed her gallery to pursue a long-unfulfilled desire to make art.

Golden Bars, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

It’s a Challenge, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Walking Back To Happiness, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Gory’s work is best described as visual stories where humour and joy sit side-by-side with the shadows that they cast. She is concerned with uncovering what is hidden, with the act of revelation. Through the repeated motifs of fragmented body parts, women, and elements of the natural world, her often-surreal images speak of desire, longing, angst and the power of transformation.

(det.) The Leaf, 2018, Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Leaf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Gory works across various medium to construct these visual narratives. Her first primary medium, collage, allows her to deconstruct, fragment, (dis)connect and reassemble, the process of creation a metaphor for the complexity and layering of human experience.

More recently, Gory has segued from collage to painting and drawing. Using oil stick, graphite and charcoal in scribbling and scratching-like motions, she adds/removes layers in a repetitive act of mark-making that is intrinsic to the interior world she is revealing.

The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

(det.) The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Last weekend to see In My Room!

Head to: Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey Street, Collingwood, VIC, Australia (map)

The Finkelstein Files: Golden Repair

Above: Remembering the Pattern, 2016

Analogue collage, oil stick on hand painted rag paper, 34 x 46cm.

Above: Where The Sun Don’t Shine, 2016

Analogue collage, oil stick on hand painted rag paper, 35 x 45cm.

“Helen Gory’s art pivots upon its connections. Its power lies in its links. Her images seem to unspool and reveal an almost filmic flow of associations. Golden Repair, the title of her solo exhibition at Chapman & Bailey in Abbotsford, refers to the Japanese procedure of Kintsugi. This process brings together and reconnects fragments of that which was whole; it is, in essence, an embrace of imperfection. For Gory, the procedure stands as an analogy of the honest acceptance of often overlooked and almost forgotten aspects of her inner self. It’s a type of re-stitching – an aesthetically realigned spill-out of the contents of a mental handbag.”

Attending the opening of the exhibition, I was reminded of the astute observations of esteemed art historian, Ken Wach, (above) as he waxed lyrical about Gory’s gilt creations. An Associate Professor and former Head of Creative School of Art at Melbourne University, Wach has long proved a valuable treasure trove of knowledge when sluicing to the core of an artists’ intention.

Above: (detail.) Never Ending, 2016

Collage and oil stick on paper, 140 x 100cm.

The mixed-media works in Golden Repair speak of desire and displacement. Through her art Gory searches for patterns and meanings; her mind is seduced by connections and coincidences as it points toward a form of self-interrogation. Thoughts are prompted by fractured, fragmentary and juxtaposed images – an inventive vision of constructed parts rather than given wholes.

“This body of work is autobiographical, and has taken me close to three years,’ says Gory. “To celebrate that which is not perfect resonates deeply with me. These distortions and missing bits and pieces, floating in mid-air, are expressions of seeing beauty in who we are, as we are,” explains Gory. “Finding the connections are our strengths.”

Above (Left to Right) : Three generations of Gory women together, artist Helen Gory with her daughter and grand-daughter.

Recognising the beauty in broken things, is interwoven with the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – to find beauty in broken or old things. By giving new life, or rebirth to objects by celebrating their flaws and history, the 15th century practice of Kintsugi can be applied to life. To find value in the missing pieces – to bring light the scars that have come from our experiences, to find new purpose through seeing the beauty of imperfection – is a gift of innate prosperity.

I have long been an ardent fan of the collage as a unique medium of exploration – signposting our most primal visual markers. Assemblage is a dense and intricate process not for the feint-hearted as Gory explains of her practice. Gory’s ability to track and expand upon her ideas are referenced here in an earlier body of works here.

For an artist, who once was firmly fixed on the spectator side of the studio, her gallerist eye is sharp and pincer-like. An advantage of two decades of running a commercially successful exhibition space, and nurturing the fledgling careers of many of Melbourne’s finest talent, Gory has a head start. To then be able to ‘un-see’ what she can already ‘see’ is the trick to tying it all together. The Guts & the Gory.

Above: Holding My Flame, 2016

Oil Stick on Board, 38 x 34cm.

Above: Feeding the Donkey, 2016

Oil stick and pastel on paper, 122 x 86cm.

From a collectability perspective, the works are genuine nuggets of gold. Priced extremely affordably, it is tempting to select more than one work of art. A pair juxtaposed and pitted against themselves works well. I often ask my twin 7 year-olds their opinion on new works – their untrained eyes often ‘see’ better than most jaded buyers with decades of viewing under their proverbial belts. After a short discussion, they both select the same work – declaring it ‘special’.

A week post-opening, the collection is fast on its way to selling out – audiences are aware that what they see and feel resonates within long after stepping away from the image. That’s how great art is meant to make you feel. That you have stumbled upon something precious that makes you feel joyous!

Golden Repair is on until April 1st at Chapman And Bailey, 350 Johnston St, Abbotsford. For sales call the gallery 03 94158666, mon-fri, 10-5.30, sat 10.30-4.30.