This summer I was reminded of the great painting of Caravaggio, the calling of St Mathew. In it Jesus calls to St Mathew, as he has his head down in the gloom of the tavern. Apparently it is Pope Francis’s favourite painting, as a little bit of local. The painting allegorises for all of us how we are called by authority and structures in society to step up, perform or conform.
Self-Portrait of the Artist as Country Road House Model is a modern working through this idea of conformity and at the same time of keeping some autonomy. Nothing is more middle-brow than Country Road. The image comes in part from the company’s blog and the staging struck me as so fake and artificial as to be funny. The tailor has the pins and the scissors still on the desk but the anorak is perfect and whole ready for sale. The painting suggests we can not risk being delusional about this shift to norm core.
Self Portrait of the Artist as Ozcore Amateur is also about art’s position within the mainstream and by extension everyone’s relationship to transgression. It is totally normal for middle class Australians to get drunk, get rowdy and take drugs. In fact it is un-Australian not to. Even the historically transgressive avenues of politics, obscenity and blasphemy are totally mainstream. Brands advertise with simulated sexting and everything is posed to be Instagram ready, but just (ie. no nipples, no penis).
It is art’s job I feel not to attempt the outsider position but to delve deeply into our delusions about conformity. In the end this work is not about art, it is a very honest and personal, psychoanalytical working through of our position to society and law. We are always it seems oppressed and controlled even in things like sexuality and politics. We have to admit this relationship to society, to admit we are part of a greater set of relations, signed by fashion and other constructions of identity. Then we can set about finding spaces of freedom from within these structures.