“Perhaps a common theme throughout is that brands change, people change and everything dies,” says Melbourne artist Darren Sylvester of the works in his solo exhibition at Neon Parc. It’s a somewhat morbid statement that is nonetheless fitting for an exhibition that includes daybeds upholstered with exact copies of ‘peak-era’ (aka phased-out) Cheeseburger, Sausage Biscuit and Filet-O-Fish packaging – only on wool instead of waxed paper.
This exhibition embodies Sylvester’s ironic use of metaphor within an era of pop culture and advertising. Indeed, Sylvester speaks to a removed nostalgia intrinsic to late capitalist culture. For many, we experienced the brands alluded to by Sylvester in a second-hand fashion – via television, billboards, print media – and they are, therefore, ingrained in the fabric of the developmental periods of our lives. The significance, then, is that it becomes impossible to separate the ‘superficial’ of neo- liberalism from the more personal phenomenological.
In Time, a curved sand gradient sculpture, traverses the length of the gallery space. For this piece, Sylvester has taken the familiar purple and orange logo of multinational corporation FedEx. However, the logo isn’t immediately recognisable, as its scale dictates that it can only be seen in its entirety from above – a perspective denied to the viewer. Instead, the corporate logo carries the cliché ‘the sands of time’ – a saccharine metaphor of little depth.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the large-scale, colour saturated photographs that Sylvester says “mimic luxury, commercial photography” that depict surreal scenarios that are simultaneously glossy and dated. In Adidas Hikers, for instance, bronzed female zombies stare into an unseen distance. Despite the post-apocalyptic scene, the Adidas tracksuits worn by these figures will trigger memories for some and a desire to consume in others.