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  Isabelle RUDOLPH


Isabelle Rudolph CV (PDF)

26 September to 20 October 2012

My practice begins by collecting choice articles of ‘hard rubbish’, from nature strips around Melbourne, in various states of decay; from pristine but out of style to completely rotten. I then refigure them into new objects or arrangements. My work is thus to re-create a type of value and currency from the ordinary and undesirable refuse of domesticity; and in doing so to provide the objects with new meanings that challenge their original purpose, and loss of it.

The collection of rubbish is a defining step in the process as it decides the aesthetic path I can take. Sometimes I will have a clear idea of the sort of thing I wish to find, but my vision of what I desire is rarely matched by reality; sometimes it’s improved on and when all hope seems dashed we may pull over close to a pile of rubbish and find a perfectly fetid piece of bedding, or a miraculously undamaged mirror, leaning against a tree.

As a place to begin I find great satisfaction in amassing a haul; in bringing together fragments of rejected home décor, like a gang of outcasts. They take on a persona that is in a large part a residue of their prior owners, in the stains and scratches and the often alarming variety of odours – which I don’t wash as I feel it destroys a significant part of the item’s character. I’m very interested in the way in which we use objects to communicate our values and identity; as symbols of desire, aspiration and ‘taste’. My materials are enriched with meaning, once by being chosen, and then once more when they are rejected. In this aspect I see my work as ‘place-specific’, if not site-specific as it forms a uniquely Melbournian image, drawn from our type of rubbish. The rubbish and therefore resulting work would, no doubt, vary greatly in other parts of the world; which is why I am very keen to make work in a similar way internationally.

However, often parts of my work have to be constructed from new and purchased materials; for example the timber structure and the second mirror were both purchased for the occasion in my work ‘Between You and Me’. I don’t think that this dilution of the found material matters to the overall authenticity of the work because purity and rules are never what my work is about. I will use whatever materials I can get hold of to reach a final image.

I like to create interactive environments of intimacy, decadence and fantasy; spaces like the set of a movie or play, to invite the viewer to be the protagonist. By becoming involved it discourages passive viewing, and allows one to invent a narrative of one’s own, in and around the work.

Mirrors are often a central component of my work, on one hand as a way of including the viewer in the frame of their own gaze, and in flattening the installation, with multiple viewers condensed to one frame of reference, to be viewed and reviewed in that frame by each other; it forces the viewers to become part of the work, and in that way connected to one another.

I also like to set two mirrors to face each other, which creates a sense of infinity, and endless reoccurrence.
Closely linked to this is the motif of the circle, as an endless shape that is perfectly symmetrical from every angle, which I use a lot for its rich symbolism, of infinity, cyclical repetition, impenetrability, ripples, wheels and motion and equality.

Current project

About a year ago I began to experiment with fabric from Mattresses and in making it into elaborate coats for men and women.

I have always loved clothes and been aware of the magical quality they have to invoke feelings and characters by being worn or the power to express in a constant and outward way the values and qualities of the wearer. In other words the unavoidable code we all tap out every day to others by getting dressed.

Initially I made a series of eight coats from mattress and bed fabric and have since added four more. Some of them are lined with old bedclothes, some are unlined. I have used conventional dressmaking supplies for fastenings and construction as well as some ornamentation. In refiguring the fabric I am interested in the transitions of meaning for example; a bloodstain moved from the centre of a mattress to the elbow of a coat evolves to be simultaneously the stain of adulthood menstruation and of childhood injury.
I love watching people dress up and play with them; impervious to the strong taboo of menstrual blood and other bodily fluids. I did not expect their enthusiasm and continue to be fascinated as people breathe in deeply the smell of dog and mould and nobody knows what. As if the mere act of recutting and sewing has deemed them sanitary; hygienic; safe.

To carry this reconstitution further I am currently working on a series of paintings; depicting my mattress coats being worn by very established celebrities. The ‘Stars’ include Kate Moss, Keith Richards, Naomi Campbell, Bob Dylan, Brad Pitt, Patti Smith, Johnny Depp, Vivienne Westwood, and David Bowie. I chose personalities that seem to go beyond being recoginsed for their career into being idolised in all aspects of their existence including the way they dress. I also chose people I believe have been in the public consciousness for so many years, as to have taken on an almost mythical status.

I see Celebrity culture as a distillation of social values. In deeming select people worthy of such widespread and lasting esteem we create symbols of our own social aspiration. Celebrity endorsement is a kind of capitalist propaganda which has long been a method of selling product and in my fictionalised compositions I am trying to catch hold of that spirit and exploit these celebrated images in to give credence to my own work. I don’t necessarily think these famous people would agree to being used as mascots for my art, but like so much of how they appear to the public; they have no say in it.

I will be drawing on traditional painting techniques in a way that recalls religious and mythological paintings of old. Through the fusing of old and new forms of idolatry I want to provoke thought around themes of wealth and success, fame and ambition, and social normalcy. Not to condemn or celebrate but just to reframe and question.

Between You and Me

When the idea of the ‘Post-Apocalypse Bunker’ first occurred to me, I envisaged it as a makeshift space and I imagined it as a mess of treasured keepsakes amassed by a desperate and hording inhabitant, influenced probably by the wealth of popular culture around the idea of apocalypse. But as I began to think more deeply about what life might be like living in an anarchic world, with no purpose but survival, and one other person to share in all your space and days, the idea grew that time would be plentiful; mass-production would have ceased; the outside world would be a hostile place and I realised that beauty might become very important. One would likely crave the lost decadence of former ages, so in response I sought to create a kind of ‘found decadence’, in the clothes and décor of the bunker. The coats described above played an important role in creating that sense. When I am in there now I feel it is imbued with a sense of resignation and calm. As one viewer stated ‘It’s a place in whch to languish’.

Double Vanity

“The mirror sees the man as beautiful, the mirror loves the man; another mirror sees the man as frightful and hates him; and it is always the same being who produces the impressions”. Justine – Marquis De Sade

This installation was an advancement of some of the themes of ‘Between You and Me’. I wanted to really anchor people into a shared and confined space and narrow their choice of where to look right down to having to look at each other. In making the inspection of self and self adornment rituals central, the viewers to self critique; and then exposes that process to the view of another.

The contained form of the structure encourages intimacy inside but the transparency of some of its walls allows voyeurism from without, for others to observe glimpses of what is happening inside the tent.
There are masks and flowers available to try on as well as a camera and a notebook in which the viewer may record the experience.

Isabelle Rudolph
Melbourne, 2012


Isabelle Rudolph 2012 Exhibition