The exhibition consists of four bodies of work resulting from Darragh’s two visits to the prestigious Lucas Artists Residency, at the Montalvo Arts Centre in San Francisco, this year. Because of her remoteness from the art supply shops she developed a working methodology to allow for her situation. She decided not to drive so relied on the local supermarket, her nearest provider which was a half hour walk from her studio, for art supplies. Sourcing materials from the aisles of the supermarket, her shopping list included aluminium foil and bamboo kebab sticks, from which she made a temporary outdoor installation on the grounds of the residence. The installation, titled Foil, exposed the limitations of physically making in reduced circumstances, a true study in time and motion and supermarket art. The outcome was the antithesis of the domestic or modest, rather it was magnificent in both scale and intent, thwarting (or foiling) the concept that significant works can only be made from expensive materials.
Darragh has used this experience to inform her current practice back in New Zealand, ‘making art over time’. She continues to source materials such as clear silicone, expanded foam, super glue and plastic chain from the aisles hardware stores. In Build up, as the title suggests, Darragh has accumulated, amassed, added and layered its constituents. The four ‘bodies’ of work are complex and multifaceted, confronting notions of high and low art. In one body of work Darragh has taken plastic chains and reconfigured them onto stretched canvas, glued painted picture frames into stacks and then mounted them onto canvas. In another body, she has attached fake silver and gold jewellery chains onto black canvas and let them swing into the space. A photographic series, titled Papercraft, depicts brightly coloured paper; the edges fold on fold – a method of origami making, with time marked as a crease, a further study in ‘time and motion’.
There is a singular artwork Nice Fake Tits, which falls just outside of the Papercraft series, installed on the staircase to be viewed leaving the exhibition. It is a photograph of a $US20 note with the title printed across it, resembling the recent Labour Party slogan ‘Let’s do this’ and in the aesthetic of Barbara Kruger’s declarative captions. A reference to her socio-political feminist concerns and her wit, one can just imagine what kind of ‘time and motion’ exercise was done to earn this note. Finally there is an installation of variously sized conical objects resembling white meringue or ‘snow freeze’ congregated on the floor. Made from expanded polyester foam they humorously and unforgivingly call attention to the voracious and damaging elements of a consumer culture.
One of New Zealand’s foremost artists, Judy Darragh has exhibited widely in New Zealand. Her works are held in several major collections including Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery and Govett-Brewster in New Plymouth. In 2004 the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa featured a major retrospective of her work curated by Natasha Conland and entitled ‘Judy Darragh: So … you made it?’ Her recent exhibitions include in 2012 Sci Fi, Waikato University and Stainless, at the Dowse Art Museum; 2013 Pinewood Bend, at Blue Oyster, Dunedin. In 2015 the Auckland Art Gallery commissioned Darragh to make a huge installation titled Limbo, in the North Atrium, which will be on view until 2018.