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Roberta Thornley

Roberta Thornley, My Head on your Heart

Tim Melville

Until July 4

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Roberta Thornley’s latest exhibition “My Head on your Heart at the Tim Melville Gallery features images of balloons – Pink, orange, black, red, green, blue and silver. Set against a black background as though portraits, they have a simplicity and abstraction  which is both intriguing and imposing.

For the artist these are more than mere images of balloons as she says in notes to the exhibition

 “Mum’s waiting to get an angioplasty procedure. I picture a tiny balloon filling her arteries. I imagine the surgeon sitting bent over with pursed lips, trying to blow it up. ….I always feel sad seeing a balloon floating away in the sky….The only thing to lighten my thoughts is to think of it landing in the backyard of a home where children live.

Such personal thoughts make the title of the show more meaningful and poignant as the balloons trigger memories and emotions for the artist. For other viewers there will be other interpretations.

As with much her previous work it is not merely the obvious superficiality of the person or object which she is concerned with as each of them act as symbols or a means of conjuring up abstract ideas or emotions. These images also have a sense of narrative or a back story linking to other ideas about balloons, the tangible and the elusive.

In many cases the images lead us to make connections with other  objects and events so the  orange work “My Head on your Heart” ($6950) with its  free-floating balloon appears to connects with  historical balloons such as those of the Montgolfier’s conjuring up a sense of freedom and release. This connection to the idea of flight is  also reinforced by the background to the work which is of a vague landscape while all the other works have a black background.

“Pink Balloon and Floss” ($5500) which is probably a water filled balloon is a contrast to “My Head on your Heart” having a sense of weight and gravity.

In “Green and Blue Balloons” ($5500) there is a sense of  intimacy, the two balloons nudging each other and connected by a white umbilical cord. The “Two Black Balloons” ($5500) by contrast is a mysterious composition, the two balloons merging with the black background but connected by the white cords.

The  deflated “Silver Balloon” ($5500) which looks like some biological creature or organ has a tactile quality and there is a sense of distress and collapse with its puckered surface  as the air is seeps from the object.

With all these works the radiance of each of the balloons and the intensity of the colour demonstrates the photographers focus on colour and light, a feature of most of her previous work.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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