Michelle Cawthorn | Playpen

Issue 28 Discovery artist Michelle Cawthorn entranced us with her tactile works and drawings, with playful forms that speak of childhood wanderings and play. In her latest exhibition at Egg & Dart, Cawthorn continues her exploration of the way that our past pervades our everyday. Blurring the line between representational and non-representational, the drawings spark memories that we have accumulated over our lifetime.

We all have an inner landscape, a private space inhabited by our thoughts and dreams, memories and emotions. It is a space that is inextricably familiar to us, and yet, elusive as well. Sometimes we can access this space at will and sometimes little triggers take us there when we least expect it. I am interested in the little triggers – an old teddy bear, a song, a scent – the ‘artefacts’ of our experiences.

My practice therefore, is concerned with the way these triggers provoke memories then couple with our subconscious to form new associations. The collages and works on paper present as enduring manifestations of these couplings. Like the unconstrained and often playful expression of ideas and thoughts through free association, these artworks represent fragments of memory juxtaposed with representational and non-representational forms.

Sometimes though, these couplings are better expressed as sculpture or through video works. Drawing on memories of childhood cubbyhouses and play equipment, the sculptures represent an experiential desire to reconnect with the artefacts of my past. Their tactile, olfactory physicality manifest a slower time when there was space for daydreams and imagination.

While it is the triggers that form the locus of my visual practice, the repetitive process of making hatched marks such as those found in my most recent works on paper, is meditative and slow, allowing space for thoughts to wander and collide. Hence, the large, hatched works are like ‘physical thinking’ for me; line by little line they form an external expression of my internal meanderings.

In 2013 I was the recipient of the Art on Paper: Hazelhurst Art Award Local Artist, judged by art critic and commentator Andrew Frost. I was also finalist in the inaugural Chippendale New World Art Prize and the Willoughby Sculpture Prize.


Until 30 September
Egg & Dart Gallery, Thirroul

Courtesy the artist and Egg & Dart Gallery, Thirroul

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