Paloma Varga Weisz at Sadie Coles Gallery

Here there's a man and a woman looking at a vagina

Here there’s a man and a woman looking at a vagina

Beautiful, unpolished carved wood. The scent and organic shapes are what draw me in. Dotted in cabinets and placed on shelves, these sculptures seem a touch out-of-place against the white walls of the gallery. Inspecting the works, peering into the cabinets, I feel as though I’ve just stepped into some perverted encyclopedic palace, so in tune with last summer’s Adriatic bustle.

Sculpture by Odires Mlaszho for the Brazillian Pavillion at the 55th Venice Biennale 2013.

Book sculpture by Odires Mlaszho for the Brazilian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale 2013.

The surreal weaving of elements – identifiable yet quickly unsettling – are what make these works so remarkable and Paloma’s perception so acute.

Metonymical limbs are made to represent a whole. Figures and objects are arranged without obvious order or chronology. A penis juts out at the feet of a mountaineer, ridiculing his proud stance. Six carved out ears are placed above a pig, making a *pig’s ear* of the display. A baby born out of a mother’s head in Birth and a sombre renaissance Couple staring at a vagina set between them, question motherhood, femininity and the way in which both are so open these days. The private is displayed and laid bare for all to see.

The fragmentation of bodies and narratives rings a chord, recalls our own busy lives. Disconnected with the past, and even with the present, it is as though our selves are broken up and our sexuality, senses, culture and history are disparately thrown around the room, splintering our identity.

Yet perhaps orderly mess is the best way to view – or even portray – our lives. With an early training in wood carving, Paloma has managed to deconstruct a few of the things that make us who we are (and I don’t just mean physiologically) and like a collage, has reassembled these elements to create an absurd mélange.

This is what I love most about contemporary art. Finding new ways of representation, displaced and uncanny to the eye. The ways in which some artists use the familiar to create the unusual, is what amazes me, but this unaccustomed way of thinking about things, like a great mashup, is what makes me come back for more.

*=make a mess*

 

Paloma Varga Weisz exhibited new sculptures and watercolours from the 1990s at Sadie Coles Gallery (South Audley st) from 22 January – 8 March 2014.

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