Obsession: Devil in the detail

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Christian Capurro’s Another Misspent Portrait of Etienne de Silhouette (1999–2014), a 1986 copy of Vogue Hommes erased page-by-page by some 260 people over a five-year period, is being shown together with an 1872 landscape by Eugene von Guérard in Obsession: Devil in the detail. The exhibition also includes a 19th-century flower painting by Henry Short, hyperreal sculptures by both Sam Jinks and Patricia Piccinini, several of Ricky Swallow’s intricately carved wooden still lifes and Nick Stathopoulos’s photorealist portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut: some 60 artworks in all.

Superficially at least, one thing that seems to link the wildly disparate photos, drawings, videos, paintings, sculpture and prints in Obsession: Devil in the detail – across both time and genres – is time-consuming labour.

“More often than not the first question someone will ask an artist is ‘How long did that take to make?’ For the works in this show it is even more heightened as the level of detail is amazing, and to produce these works there is an uncanny mix of technical skill and dedication to practice, along with a steady hand,” explains curator Danny Lacy. But he goes on to add, “To be honest I’m not that concerned with the time component, or with the perception that artists are obsessive because they work with detail.”

Instead, as his title indicates, Lacy hopes gallery viewers will delve a little deeper. “Devil in the detail is really saying that not everything is as simple or literal as it may first appear,” he says. “If you look beneath the surface level and closely at the ideas that the artists are exploring you will find a depth and richness.”

Obsession: Devil in the detail
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
30 November 2018 – 17 February 2019

This article was originally published in the January/February 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Tracey Clement