Dependency @ 16 Nicholson Street
James St. Findlay's new exhibition at 16 Nicholson Street is an absurd yet poignant look at typical relationship roles
There are flowers in dark liquid around the stairs and two floors of the exhibition, a reliable signifier of a live courtship. Though looking like the brown water of old, wilted flowers, it’s honey, and the carnations are still bright after 10 days because of it. Untrimmed and in the small jars, they lankily lean around corners and in a recess. It’s an effectively icky combination of otherwise innocuous objects.
Into the ceramics of the first floor, James St. Findlay has carved poetry and drawings. In one, there’s a monstrous looking humped-back, spiked-back creature with red eyes and mouth. Tears stream as the equally stretched and distorted, pregnant-looking sexual partner’s erect dick glows painfully red inside the demonic hunched figure. 'SORRY not feeling this' borders the drawing.
Rejecting the exacting dissection of scientific figurative representation, the drawings instead become accurate recording of the embarrassing dysmorphia that can come when vulnerably or unconfidently getting into position during sex.
The upstairs gallery is given over to Findlay’s video work, Apex Predator. 'Nameless heterosexual male' is the character Findlay plays, dressed in a baggy business suit, baldcap and head covered in green make-up. The male character variously struts and calamitously clambers through an open plan office space that has been furnished with dozens of easels. Findlay’s performance is a well-observed satire of the corporate, macho overconfidence. A call comes, and the male’s wife leaves him. Findlay then plays a hilarious, flailing – and at points touching – breakdown.
The laugh out loud absurdity of Dependency is frequently disturbed and enhanced by a spare poignancy that brings to mind the ecstasy and painful sadness of the late artist David Robilliard’s economic paintings. Tenderly but sharply, Findlay brings to the light the worst trash that’s been hoarded away in the dead end alleyways of heterosexual and gendered love roles. [Adam Benmakhlouf]