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'Pillars' - Carol Dance Art Exhibition at the Stirrup Gallery

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by Jenny Wong (subscribe)
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Paintings that will stimulate curiosity

"I'm going to see Carol Dance's neo-surrealistic artwork next week" I said to my Classical Indian dance trained buddy, Pradnya. "Carol Dance? Coincidence. Is that the same person who wrote the play 'Indian Embrace' I saw at the Riverside Theatre the other day? It was excellent! What's neo-surrealism?" she replies.

Carol Dance, a Sydney painter as well as a playwright artist, opened in November her new exhibition, 'Pillars' at the Stirrup Gallery in Sydney's inner west. As I stepped into the gallery, I immediately notice around the room paintings with a consistent theme of something perched on pillars. My first thought was "I wonder what's on those pillars?" A silvery haired lady, hearing my footsteps, stepped out from a small room and warmly greeted me. It was Carol Dance.

Carol Dance started her career painting abstracts, believing she might not have been able to create figurative work. Clearly, she has proven herself wrong. Her exhibition the 'Pillars', represents a unique and quirky genre: 'neo-surrealism', described as a revival of surrealism mixed with elements pop art of the 1970s with an attempt to illustrate bizarre imagery of dreams or the subconscious mind, although Carol informs me pop art is more about the artist rather than the artwork. The Pillar collection, in particular her figurative works of people, conjure thoughts or questions that will leave you pondering well after you have seen the exhibition.The Pillars exhibition is based on a theme that morphs figures from ancient history civilisation and transforms them into modern interpretations, which can be as simple or complex as you please.

My three favourite paintings in Carol Dance's Pillar collection are The Amateur Existentialist, Cliff Dwellers and Path to the Future. Why do these ones stand out?
Carol Dance Pillars Stirrup Gallery
Left to right: The Amateur Existentialist; Cliff Dwellers; Path to the Future

The Amateur Existentialist is a painting of an alluringly handsome (well I thought so, not sure about my friend Stephanie) but somewhat rugged, blue eyed man perched on a pillar who has the world on his head. His facial expression looks as if he is deep in thought, but some may see him as if he is at the end stage of his thought process, resulting in a sad state after some contemplation. The confusion portrayed in the man's face is a stark contrast to the prominent green and orderly grid lines in the painting, which may be interpreted as representing a society based on meaningless routine and order. The undercurrents of confusion of society are represented by manic squiggly grey lines, calling us to take a step back from our daily grind and question the reason for our very existence. I loved this painting as it was thought provoking in a different way every time I glanced at it so ended up purchasing it.

I see Cliff Dwellers as a painting of a densely populated city built on a somewhat fragile arch bridge. Both ends of the bridge are built on the edge of two cliffs, as if it was link between two similar places that were separated by an earthquake. I say similar places because the earth separating the two is painted in similar colours and patterns which appear to suggest the places were once adjoined before it split. The first thought that came to mind when looking at this painting was the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having travelled there recently. The triangular building resembles the 'Burj Khaliffa', the tallest building in the world. The city on the bridge reminds me of the fragility of Dubai being a city built on sand and on an earthquake zone. The picture also depicts perhaps the UAE as one of the safest and neutral countries in the world, bridging the gap between its troubled war torn neighbouring countries of the Middle East.

Evolution. Fate. Modernisation. Gender balance. The Unknown. These are just some words that crossed my mind when I saw Path to the Future. The painting shows four faces of people of different eras: caveman of the Ice Age to Ancient China, Ancient Rome and European settlement.The feathers above are perhaps a symbol of celestial wisdom and the centre of existence in civilisation. The unknown of civilisation is portrayed by questioning what lies behind the four faces. The evolution of gender balance is portrayed by men dominating the ancient civilisations but a woman establishing presence in the modern age.

Carol Dance's Pillars exhibition is showing at The Stirrup Gallery, a small cottage like gallery on the corner in the community complex on 142 Addison Road, Marrickville. Carol Dance's artwork is an affirmation of creativity, how history influences or changes modern times, and more importantly, it makes you think deeply about our own existence.
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*Jenny Wong was invited as a guest
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Why? Stimulates the mind
When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11am to 5pm; Sunday 9am to 5 pm or by appointment:
Where: Stirrup Gallery, The Addison Road Community Centre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville
Cost: Free
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