Exhibition News

Narrbongs - Lorraine Connelly-Northey @ Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi (May 2008)

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Published Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Narrbongs (string bags) are perhaps more significant to traditional Aboriginal people than we might at first be aware of.

String bags were essential for nomadic people that survived by hunting and gathering, enabling them to carry small items of food like eggs, nuts and berries that they had gathered and for straining and washing the toxins from otherwise poisonous fruits and berries as well as for spiritual and magical properties. Spirit bags could be held during fights by men for their magical powers. I'd refer interested readers to the book Aboriginal String Bags, Nets and Cordage by Alan L. West, published by Museum Victoria.

 Lorraine Connelly-Northey - Narrbong (string bag)

The manufacture of bags and other fibre goods still continues for functional and commercial purposes today as they hold fascination for those interested in the cleverly woven forms of natural fibres.

Sculptural non-functional pieces like those on show at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi make reference to the essence of these woven bags - the use of found objects like sheets of oxidised metal, springs, wires are in harmony with the traditional methods of using hairs, grasses or vines with which to weave baskets and bags. And within the framework of these striking objects the sense of these bags being a way of collecting ideas about culture and art as the artist travels across the cultural terrain ultimately shared by European and Indigenous artists resonates with the traditional use of the string bags.

 Lorraine Connelly-Northey - Narrbong (string bag)

Connelly-Northey generates a great deal of visual tension by her careful exploitation of the intersection between alien and and hostile materials like wire and metal sheets formed into objects that have an intrinsic association with domestic purpose. In her earlier exhibitions the scale of these objects was small, but now the visual and conceptual tension between the sculptural objects and the original artefacts. The increase in scale has enabled the artist to really show the strange hybrid beauty of these sculptures. There are obvious references to the oversized pop art pieces as well as to surrealist concerns with manipulating the clash between expectations and what is presented.

 Lorraine Connelly-Northey - Narrbong (string bag)

Take a closer look at one of these Narrbongs and Connelly-Northey’s skill at selecting, bending, cutting and joining metal strapping, cables, wires and sheets of metal has been honed over successive exhibitions. For those interested in curatorial work take note of the way this exhibition has been hung, because it wouldn't have been easy to group these works - and the end the end result is that the works look brilliant on the walls, both by scale and texture.

 Lorraine Connelly-Northey - Narrbong (string bag)

For more information about this Lorraine Connelly-Northey:

Martin Shub June 2008

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