Faced with the unfolding horror of these uncertain and unsettling times, the role that artists and their work can play in our lives as a source of comfort, a way to make sense of a world that seems to be crumbling, and a spotlight on abuse or inequality becomes especially clear. Canberra-based artist eX de Medici is renowned for her ability to shoulder these artistic responsibilities, juxtaposing the fragility of floral ornamentation with the paraphernalia of violence and state control in works that Australian National Capital Artists Inc Critic-in-Residence Sophia Halloway describes in our April 2020 issue as both a declaration of ‘the transience of life and the futility of pleasure’, and ‘an interrogation of power, who wields it and to what ends’.
When Halloway and De Medici met earlier this year, ‘conversation inevitably turned to the recent bushfire crisis … [its] human and environmental impact [as well as] a sense of hopelessness at a perceived complacency of government’. Although catastrophic, that tragedy has now been pushed far from our minds by the global existential threat of COVID-19, imbuing Halloway’s closing words with a haunting prescience: ‘De Medici warns of our complacency and a need to be constantly alert to … catastrophe. Everything can change in a moment … we are seduced and distracted by beauty and false liberty. Deceit makes itself known, but too late. Slowly, slowly, then all at once’.
Art Monthly, 2020
Image: eX de Medici, ‘Proximity to Authority (Isfahan)’, 2012, watercolour and gold leaf on paper, 114 x 136 cm; image courtesy the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore.