YES, that is blood,” artist James Wilson says.
“Despite looking for alternatives. Nothing looks like or behaves like blood.
“The larger work Angel is created with it entirely.”
The Voice was slightly nervous about asking what kind of blood was used in Wilson’s exhibition Otto and Annie, but there’s no denying the end result is arresting and somewhat disturbing.
Inspired by a 1926 painting of Anita Berber by Otto Dix, Otto and Annie draws parallels between present day and the 1920s when the world was recovering from Spanish flu and dealing with the rise of nationalism.
Despite all our advancements and technological frippery, have we progressed as a society with racism and sexism continually rearing its ugly head?
“The central idea of this collection is that in the 1920s, Germany and the rest of the world were in between the two world wars,” Wilson says.
“The Weimar Republic came and went, exacerbated by German dissatisfaction with the treaty of Versailles.
“This led to the rise of the Nazi party, the rise of extreme rightwing politics and ultimately the Second World War with all of its horrors.
“While I would very much hope that we return to centrist politics, my expectation is less positive. Here in Australia we witness politics which favour conservative values, nationalism, racial exclusion, social division and an economic environment which is polarised.”
Featuring large photos, cyanotypes and video, some of the works in Otto and Annie feature a woman drenched in blood. Wilson says he wasn’t highlighting misogyny or the mistreatment of women, but instead the lives lost in the pandemic and “contemporary deaths witnessed by wars, hostilities, and oppressive police practices worldwide.”
Wilson has enjoyed a colourful life and career, visiting 55 countries over the years and working a litany of jobs including jeweller, heavy vehicle operator, touring stage photographer, motorcycle courier and “sometime dominatrix”.
Now based in West Perth, he says he is inspired by iconoclasts who question the status quo like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams: “His way of thinking was to question the obvious, ridicule the status quo and gently question the validity of government.”
He also likes Warhol and the controversial installation artist Tracey Emin. Otto and Annie is at the Mudita Gallery in Central Perth from March 26 until about the end of April. The event is free, but ticketed. For tix and more info go to muditagallery.weebly. com/tickets.html
By STEPHEN POLLOCK