Currently tucked away in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is a small room exploding with rainbow colours and slightly disturbing human bodies in a kaleidoscope of unapologetic vibrancy. This is The Bloggs by Nicola Jackson, simultaneously Frida Kahlo-style living room and anatomical exploration, and one of my favourite exhibitions of 2017 so far.
Stepping into The Bloggs is like stepping into a room in your grandmother’s house, if your grandmother had a seriously eclectic sense of style and a fetish for human anatomy. Various cabinets, plants, artworks and furniture are arranged as though in a domestic space, the definition of art fluidly spilling over from the works on the walls to the unframed objects filling the space. Everything is bright, bold, and intense, with no clear start or end point. Themes of human anatomy and world cultures are immediately apparent, with imagery preoccupied with human bodies dominating the works. Egyptian-style urns and masks reminiscent of Asian theatre provide varied and interesting surfaces for these images to be displayed on.
The exhibition’s title, The Bloggs, evokes the concept of ‘Joe Blogg’, your standard, everyday bloke who probably works in an office or as a plumber, pays all his taxes and has a dog called Rex. It’s therefore an interesting coupling to team this idea of an everyday human with such bold and confrontational presentation of colour and imagery. Jackson prompts questions of what physically makes us human, how might we go about classifying our human form, and how such questions might tie in with art and culture.
Highlights of the space include the series of masks covering the far wall, each brightly painted and calling on the stories and histories of different countries and traditions, a series of ‘bones’ illustrated with anatomical images and presented as museum artefacts, and a large drawing of the human form complete with detailed musculature, horizontally displayed as though lying down on a protruding bed.
What makes The Bloggs such an excellent exhibition is not just the fearless use of colour and form, nor the thorough exploration of the art and act of anatomical representation. Rather, it is Jackson’s intelligent weaving together of seemingly disparate ideas with enough insight and subtlety to create logical and illuminating connections. The Bloggs is surprising and fresh and unique and I loved it—go check it out*.
*Unless you hate bodies and gore (understandable). Or happy colours (less understandable).