High-wire art

LEOTARDS, nipple pasties, and outrageous colours take centre stage in Wendy Sharpe’s Burlesque and Circus.

The exhibition mixes drama, romance, a slice of life lived on the edge, and a liberal sprinkling of naughty bits, in a nod to her beloved burlesque.

“At its best it’s a bit like vaudeville,” Sharpe says.

“It can be beautiful but I prefer it when it’s satirical, funny and out there.”

One of Australia’s most awarded artists, her prize-winning Archibald entry in 1996 was a self portrait showing Sharpe as a burlesque-stye figure in a voluptuous green bra and clinging animal-print tights.

• Wendy Sharpe’s Glitta and Ya, one of the oil paintings in her latest exhibition, Burlesque and Circus.

The painting exudes sensuality and depicts a larger than life woman who’s up for a good laugh at herself and anyone else; a theme in many of the works in Burlesque and Circus.

Sharpe says she has a straightforward figurative style, but the stories behind the scenes are more cryptic.

“You are looking and wondering what’s going on,” she tells the Voice.

While many of her subjects are voluptuous, Sharpe discounts the idea she only paints “chunky” people.

• Wendy Sharpe.

“There are thin people in my works and very large people in my works,” she says.

Women are a large part of a burlesque audience and one of the appeals is the mix of body shapes, Sharpe says

“It’s not about a bland standard look…it’s about an exciting and interesting person.”

Along with winning an Archibald, Sharpe has been a finalist six times, and has won the Sulman Prize, two travelling scholarships and the Portia Geach memorial Award.

And she is the first woman since WW II to be appointed official artist for the defence department, being deployed to East Timor with Australia’s peace keeping troops.

Burlesque and Circus is on at Linton and Kay Gallery, St Georges Terrace, Perth until August 20.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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