Art About Art
Posted: 20 Mar 2007 | By: Andrew Nicholls
Art-About-Art can often feel tedious, either excluding its audience through smug self-posturing, or insulting their intelligence with neurotic self-abasement. Not so the work of Jacob Ogden-Smith, whose exploration of the artwork-as-commodity succeeds in being both engagingly humorous (his latest works are designed to double as furniture) and sexy, acknowledging the erotics of both art making and art collecting, and the intimacy of purchasing objects for the domestic space.
His entry for Artrage's inaugural national erotic art prize in 2005 provided one of the exhibition's few genuinely erotic encounters: a photographic re-staging of Titian's Venus of Urbino, with a male youth in place of Titian's female model.
Most viewers would not realise that Ogden-Smith's Modern Man Reclining is actually a self-portrait, effectively conflating the sacred aura of the old master with narcissistic self-objectification - artist and artwork transformed into the ultimate desirable commodity.
His Advanced Diploma graduate works from the same year investigated the strange fate of the art object as purchased by a private collector and placed in a domestic context, where its use-value must compete with that of household appliances, furniture, and even the building itself. One series of minimal canvases created from MDF and Gyprock conflate the artwork with the wall upon which it is hung; similarly, a set of photographs documenting the arrangement of furniture, household objects and gaudy abstract canvases in a designconscious domestic space were exhibited on a gallery wall painted in 'Omaha Sunset' - a subtly nauseating shade of apricot household acrylic.
The luxurious domestic interior documented in these latter works (replete with jarrah panelling, cane furniture and indoor pool) recalls the tacky affluence of Perth's 1980s post-America's Cup boom, subtly contextualising the works within Western Australia's legacy of corporate greed and corruption - a legacy in which the purchase of artworks as status symbols (and their function as ego-strokers) has played a very public role. The series was extended more recently for The Devil At The Church at the Church Gallery in 2006, the giddily-coloured artworks of the earlier series replaced by glossy black canvases inhabiting their luxurious surroundings with sinister intent. In one, a canvas reclines in a chair, a glass of wine on the floor nearby. It remains unclear whether the painting has merely been rested there while its owner decides where to hang it, or somehow taken over the affluent lifestyle of its purchaser.
The self-consciously cool detachment of Ogden-Smith's aesthetic makes it difficult to ascertain just how sincere his intentions are when he talks of creating artworks with a practical function. There is obvious irony to his Untitled Pairs of paintings with matching waste paper baskets, or his recent series of glossy black ceramic Love Objects, (mysterious forms made up of protrusions and orifices with an ambiguous erotic function), yet his critique rings true; in a world already over-full of objects - many of them useless - how does any artist ethically justify the creation of new ones?
Image: Jacob Ogden-Smith, Interior - Displacement 1, 2006, archival ink jet prints, 64 x 83cm. Courtesy the artist.