Ricky Swallow

'Killing Time' Australian Pavillion
Venice Biennale, June 2005
Ricky Swallow
I enjoyed Venice tremendously, especially so as I had been dreading going. After being sick the week before, I wasn't really in the mood for the artworld and the high powered schmoozing that is so much a part of Venice and so was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed the biennale. Ricky Swallow's work was great, but I felt that it seemed to mirror the Patricia Piccinini work in a weird way - perhaps in its meticulous hyper-reality - and came off badly for being presented in the same pavilion, as the sculptures were placed in almost the identical places as 2003, so that I felt a sense of deja vu. The work was beautiful; I just couldn't get away from thinking that they needed to have done something different in how they exhibited the work to break with the time before. The catalogue is fantastic, and very thoughtful.
Barbara Hunt


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok - I'll bite, whats the big deal re. Swallows work? Its obviously beautifully executed craftwise aaand there's a beguiling self conciousness about it (some say abject....) - but I cant get over the possibility that if they were made of terracotta they'd make great banal romantic garden decorations - ie the fish in the tyre or the hands holding seeds - the cornucopia was (I thought) obvious, boring and banal - so set me straight guys.

2:32 PM  
Blogger brook andrew said...

terracotta> i never thought of that one. v funny. hmmm...it's funny how art is these days. motivated by sheer tapping away at a little stone. i have mixed thoughts about swallows work. i admire his hard work, regardless of the output. i get the point though, all artists tap away.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Michael Hutak said...

For mine, Ricky's latest work is just that - hard work, it's all about work, it foregrounds physical labour to the exclusion of all else, and ends up working too hard. A lot of time and effort's gone into these works, but to what end? Maybe it was the pressure of being the national rep, but Venice lacks the wit and levity of Swallow's earlier stuff. Now its ALL about the process. Stunt sculpture, extreme carving. Diligence is now his handmaiden, but where's the jouissance gone? Has success made a failure of his home? I sincerely hope not...

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you be so sure he carves and whittles all his own pieces?

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

ahhh please, come on guys...let's not become an example of the tall poppy syndrome. We would all hope we wouldn't become a victim of the "I like the old stuff better than the new stuff". For one, it's too predictable. People are allowed to grow and change. I heard a beautiful description of the installation at Venice that was "as if the light itself was sucking the life out of the sculptures." I'm enjoying the move away from popular culture towards a personal politic. The argument of Ricky having assistants, is old and grey. These people are credited and paid and it's unlikely that they ever worked for him chained to the wheel. I can think of worse things and people to be working for. Can't we just say...damn fine work, you deserve a holiday.

11:39 AM  
Blogger brook andrew said...

yes> a holiday plz!

thx michelle> funny how many an artist subscribes to 'i wish i had an assistant' and then, regardless if the artist has one or not, they're like 'bitch!'...

7:42 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

From the opinions I have observed and encountered over the past few years, whoever represents Australia at the Venice Biennale automatically becomes someone who many Australian artists love to hate. Likewise, since Ricky Swallow's swift rise to fame he has become someone who many Australian artists love to hate.
Thanks for cutting through it Michelle.
Plenty of lint has been picked off Ricky's jumper, that's for sure. Like most artists, some of his works function better than others. There is food for thought there, and poetic moments. Some banality too, some shortcomings, but I think overall anyone would be quite hard pressed to declare that Ricky Swallow is a bad artist.
If the various art scenes in Australia would do away with the tall poppy syndrome and relax the output of scathing energy, there would be more time and opportunities for positive output and exchange, never a bad thing.

7:43 PM  
Blogger geoff lowe said...

"the scathing energy" for me shows how many people feel consistently left out
It is kind of galling to have one Australian gone on about ad nauseum at the expense of all others and the wider culture
Contemporaries Nick Mangan and Richard Grigg made and make very similar work to Ricky but are they now copyists?
If we go back to the very unique democratic beginnings of our country, I'd like to find a way for the small poppies to be represeted too
Ricky is a really good guy and artist for sure but I believe this ulitmate craft part of his work is being used as a way to stifle further opinions and culture

1:35 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I think that some artists see the way his work functions and get inspired by it, and some curators see its popularity and interpret it as being 'of the moment'. I think the real appeal of Swallow's work is that it taps into, and expresses a reverie for, the nostalgic objects of a generation or two.
Possibly the popularity f this work proliferates memetically, who or what are you suggesting uses the crafty aspect of his work as 'a way to stifle further opinions and culture'?
If people label Nick Mangan, Richard Grigg, et al as copyists then I would say they are not reading those artists' works on some of their most important levels.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

i gotta say I'm about as tired of hearing Nick Mangan and Richard Griggs work is like Rickys as I am sick of hearing bad stuff about Ricky. Because a person uses card or wood does this make them like Ricky? Because a person uses paint does this make them like every other painter? Please...we are more intelligent than this. Rickys work is getting more interesting the further he moves away from popular culture and the closer he gets to a personal politic. I think one of the most demanding things about making art is to keep making good honest art in the realm of the public. There aint no one doing it better than Ricky than I can think of. Given half the chance for such a public arena I think artists like Nick Mangan, or Richard Griggs would do it differently, because they are different artists making different work. I think people just get a bit greedy for that public arena, and Ricky seems to be the grounds keeper. I am not pissed at him for doing so, and Im not about to take out my own issues on his art. His work deserves the attention. As a community I think we just need to focus on making a few more arenas for more people to shine as bright.

7:11 AM  

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