The latest exhibition by Judy Darragh, Kissing the Ground, at Two Rooms shows her continuing to explore some of the concerns that have underpinned much of her artistic practice, but also making some distinct departures and exploring new methods, materials and subjects. As she has throughout her career, Darragh again looks to commonplace, discarded and/or kitsch materials, this time utilising silicone, polystyrene, bubble wrap and items typically found in $2 shops (think smiling yellow mugs and plastic animals). In doing so, she continues to challenge notions of high and low art, blurs the boundaries between concepts of art and craft, and calls attention to the insatiable and detrimental elements of our consumer culture.
Kissing the Ground is comprised of two distinct parts. One suite of works sees Darragh working with the same medium used in her 2013 show Please Give Generously, although the content and methodology is now different. The compositions are crafted from a variety of materials including sheepskin, clear silicone forms, plastic wrapping, a ceramic dragon, and even the artist’s own wisdom teeth, which are then photographed by Sam Hartnett at high-resolution, dramatically enlarged, and made into PVC banners. Silicone also makes its way into the other body of works in the exhibition where it is stuck, melted and smeared across reversed linen. Referred to by the artist as “Still Light Paintings,” Darragh approaches the silicone as a type of transparent paint, exploring the notion of the “smear image” as she pools, pushes, and daubs the viscous substance. Ostensibly clear and colourless, the use of prisms introduces the possibility of colour being present through light refraction and reflection, with Darragh commenting that “colour has been a large part of my work so these are a paring back or revealing of the substrate, making the invisible visible.”
Much like Darragh’s work itself, the title of the current show, Kissing the Ground, is complex and multifaceted, making numerous references to her latest body of work. In April 2015, during a trek in Kathmandu, Nepal, Darragh was unfortunate enough to be present during the magnitude of 7.8 earthquake that caused widespread devastation and death across the country. Arriving back in New Zealand, Darragh was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude for the solid, safe and familiar soil beneath her feet. The title, Kissing the Ground, pays homage to Darragh’s traumatic, personal experience, and to the feeling of relief, which has stayed with her throughout the year. On a more physical/practical level, “ground” points to the support surface of the linen pieces and to the grinding of pigments, but the title it also refers to the human mouth and moments of intimacy, which fittingly takes us back to the works themselves and the banners sporting remnants of teeth.
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, Dowse Gallery; 2013 Pinewood Bend, Blue Oyster, Dunedin. The close of 2015 will see Darragh mount an installation piece Limbo, in the North Atrium of the Auckland Art Gallery. She is also the most recent recipient of the Lucas Artists Program (LAP) Visual Arts Fellowship at Montalvo Arts Centre in San Francisco.