Morticia: Think of Romeo and Juliet.
Gomez: They died.
Morticia: Oh, but what fun they had those last three days…
The mid-1960s television series The Addams Family serves as the unlikely starting point for South Australian artist Angela Valamanesh’s new body of work The Mortician’s Garden. The exhibition’s title references the series’ matriarchal lead, the sophisticated, urbane and ghoulish Morticia Addams. The series operated on many levels of meaning but at its heart was an acceptance of difference. It debuted in a united States at odds with itself as the country looked at its history and future through the lens of the Civil Rights movement and numerous battles for equality.
For Valamanesh, Morticia Addams’ winter garden, filled with carnivorous plant hybrids and roses that have their blooms routinely cut off to leave jagged stems, was a surprising visual memory from her adolescence. The exhibition features an abundant array of ceramic works complimented by paintings that play off these amalgamated monstrous forms. The depiction of elements of nature has been a constant in the artist’s work. Valamanesh considers form on the micro and macro scale and fuses them together to create beauty and meaning from the improbable. These are cues to the viewer, a reminder in contemporary Australia to consider our environment, recently ravaged by bush fires and to pay attention to its uniqueness.
Valamanesh is quick to point out the relationship between art and science, two fields of endeavour that are often seen as poles apart. She suggests that often scientific discovery emanates from accidents or through the kind of experimentation that is found in the artist studio. Artists play with forms and experiments until something cohesive materialises. This process of ‘blue sky thinking’ unites the fields in a shared attempt to intuit patterns in the natural world, whether they be physical or conceptual.
The exhibition operates as a cohesive whole and as individual viewpoints, mimicking an imagined laboratory adorned with charts and experiments. The botanical spliced to the mycological in a fantastical world that, like the T.V. series that inspired it, has a healthy dose of humour and self-reference. These works are beautiful and impactful and represent an artist taking time to consider the world. They are meditations on form. The exhibition is a call to slow down, consider things from a different viewpoint and even, as serious as things are in the world right now, the potential of a brighter future.
Curator, 2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art
Art Gallery of South Australia.
Angela Valamanesh will feature in the 2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State, Art Gallery of South Australia, 4 March - 5 June, 2022.