@ Visual Bulk, Hobart
16 September 2017
Although Handy Work is in some ways about the one-liner, it’s also about multiple lines intersecting: my partner’s Macedonian grandmother (Baba) once told me that I have ‘lovely hands’. This was the closest I’ve ever come to having my palms read, but it still felt like a quasi-mystical experience. With her bony, arthritic hands, she clutched my fingers like a gypsy studying the subtle differences between the lines that will lead to inevitable sadness or true love, and I immediately felt a cosmic connection with the village of her childhood, and its’ superstitions, age-old goat’s milk remedies and the little scattered crumbs of ancient black magic.
For the past few months or so I have been poking around in the studio working on a number of ideas that are in some way about hands. I believe the first time this idea occurred to me was when I was making maquettes for a project that never progressed beyond the research/development phase: this was about trying to get inside the head of a European explorer who was cataloguing the flora and fauna of north west Victoria during the 1880s, whilst also documenting the last remnants of indigenous culture that existed there. I wanted to make a photograph of a pair of paper-mâché hands sketching a bird, taken from the perspective of those hands’ owner. A pair of disembodied hands, working. A fragment of a second-hand experience, but a pair of hands that you could ultimately relate to.
So in some senses, this is about the connection between the work and the hands, and - what exactly is the work that’s being done? I’m not talking about the hand-made, a term which inevitably leads to a tedious and irrelevant discussion of craft vs. art. (The two are just different ends of the same tangled piece of string.) This is about the hand as the tool – however clumsy - and how, from this perspective, the hands appear somewhat detached from the body. And the bodily detachment of hands is further enforced by the (now widespread) compulsive use of mobile devices – the hands have become an extension of a mind that is omnipresent, in communion with ephemeral beings and ideas. Digital fortune-tellers all, fingertips sliding over the smooth glass that sits within the palm, conjuring up all the hidden secrets of the world.
I have always found myself drawn to the murky realm that lies between human culture and the natural world. Not only have we taken great pains to distance ourselves from our organic origins, but our technologies and ways of working have so entirely shaped the world we now occupy that the two appear almost indiscernible. I attempt to position my art within this uneasy intersection, where we discover that the things made by humans and all the other things that inhabit our lived experience might in fact be one and the same phenomenon. *All images in square format by me; all others by Lucy Parakhina.