The Exquisite Pirate – South China Sea
July 25th, 2009 - September 2nd, 2009
Sally Smart takes a voyage through no-man’s land. Riding on a galleon laden with skeletons and severed heads, the Australian collage artist explores the territory of the female pirate (yes they did exist) in her latest installation at Oriental Vista Gallery.
Her work features ghostly vessels, with rigging cut out of painted fabric, and hulls created of a patchwork of paint and photographs. Crow’s nests dangle perilously and anchors dredge the depths while the ship swirls in the doldrums of a white negative space.
It’s a haunting narrative indeed. And while Smart’s work conjures up pirate tales of yore, it also points towards non-fictional events.
Ships have a great resonance in Australian history, both as bringers of European immigrants (disease and plunder) and bringers of more recent immigrants the refugees and those involved in human smuggling.
Smart looks at the symbol of the ship as a vehicle of power – generally male power – turning Captain Hooks into cross-gendered chimerical creatures with both male and female features. These exquisite pirates take exceedingly macho stereotypes and mark them with female features – in a re-balancing of the gender dynamic.
Says Smart, “Initially I was quite interested in the found image to support the idea of taking, plundering if you like. It was important in starting the project to image what a female pirate might look like.
So I made paper collages, constructed from cutting up pages from fashion magazines. This I saw as a rudimentary and immediate way to image the woman pirate – and to look at popular cultures’ representation: tattoos, bad teeth, wooden limbs, parrots, headscarves and bare breasts etc.”
This fascinating exhibition has made the rounds from New York, to Belgium and will dock in Shanghai on July 25th, “I have a fleet in the USA, Latin America, Australia, Asia and Europe” says Smart.
Mediums and techniques: Mixed Media collage, photomontage, assemblage, installation, fabric, photos, painted and stained canvas.
Themes and evocations: darkness, corruption, colonialism, gender, domesticity, instability, partial recollections, immigration and shifting cultural identities.
Influences: Surrealism, Dadaism, psychoanalysis, feminist history, Delacroix’s painting of Liberty, Le 28 juillet: la Liberte Guidant le people (1830), Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of Pyrates
(1724-28) and Kathy Acker’s Pussy King of Pirates.
Meaning of the Title: “The Exquisite Pirate,” is a reference to the exquisite corpse, a game invented by the surrealists where people were asked to draw a part of an object without seeing what the other people had drawn. Exquisite Pirates takes our fixed ideas about pirates and adds new features, thus playing a game of destabilization. Smart chose the word “exquisite” for its connotations of femininity and refinement and references the “Surrealist’s Map of the World”.