Flora and Fauna – Adrienne Doig

3 July – 8 August 2010

Flora and Fauna is a series of self portraits by Adrienne Doig using appliqué and embroidery on vintage Australiana tea towels. Presenting herself in a variety of stylised poses and lively activities her image is overlaid across our national emblems literally imposing herself on these cultural stereotypes.

“I don’t agree with the idea that what an artist does is that important. I don’t want my work to appear too earnest. People like to think of artists with a certain romance, they like the model of the unrestrained creative genius, whereas art practice is an ordinary, everyday activity for me.”

In Flora and Fauna, her latest series of self-portraits, the artist continues with the stitching medium, but where her recent embroideries on linen referenced the definitive high art needlework model, the Bayeux Tapestry, now Doig’s appliquéd self-portraits are worked onto the linen of Australian souvenir tea towels. Doig has been making self-portraits since 2001-02, beginning with the remarkable series My Life As A Doll, for which she commissioned miniature doll makers from all over the world.

In the tea towels, as in the larger body of work devoted to self-portraiture, the artist’s outfits are meticulously rendered. Always, the wardrobe depicted is a slavish reproduction of Doig’s real-world sartorial choices, an ongoing obsessive homage to her favourite clothes. It is important to the artist that one notes the similarity between the dresses in Song Birds and Try Harder (“I have this dress in two colours”).

Some of the poses are quotations of other works by the artist such as her fridge magnets (2008) and another Bayeux-styled tapestry that is in progress. The exhibition comprises clusters of images of the artist singing, skipping, swimming and dancing. The kitsch tea towels show us Doig’s alter ego: “I do all those activities – well I don’t sing with the birds – but I’m a lot more proactive in the tea-towels than I am in real life “.

In Flora and Fauna the Australian landscape tradition is a conceptual focus. “I used tea-towels because they fit in nicely as a contrast to the mythic view of the Australian landscape in Australian art history, which is harsh and forbidding. The tea towels offer a cuter, cosier, more hospitable view of Australia”.

Doig has made two works using the Gallery’s own souvenir tea-towels featuring drawings by Leigh Rigozzi. In A Cup of Tea (Rigozzi’s tea-towel of Lewers House), Doig uses the image of herself sitting and drinking tea which first appeared in Diem de Die (2006) whereas In the Garden transforms Rigozzi’s drawing of the kitchen garden with the imposition of Doig the interloping gardener, using a figure which again first appeared in Diem de Die.

Other significant personal experiences are recorded in the text works. While the flag in Sorry references former Prime Minister Rudd’s historic apology to the Stolen Generations, the placards of Try Harder and You Work it Out are based on ‘things people said to me about my work’. Doig says the latter two works changed “something awful into something funny”. Doig’s work does not sear with introspection, instead it is selectively personal, celebrates everyday tasks, favourite clothes, fey imaginings and other riches of ordinary life.

Anne Loxley, Curator
*All artist quotes are from communications with the author over May-June 2010

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