Shotgun 2013 was awarded to Mary Scott with work produced during the program presented in the exhibition, Black Powder at the CAT Gallery from 19 – 24 November, 2013. In this edition of Shotgun two essays were commissioned: Slow burning but incendiary… by Jackie Dunn and Mary Scott: Black Powder by Jacqueline Millner.
Slow burning but incendiary…
Pain has an element of blank
It doesn’t explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing, it explains some things
Post-election 2013, waiting for our new government to be sworn in and I’m listening to Julia Gillard’s biographer call her subject defiant and fatalistic as she exhorted those in parliament to ‘take their best shot’ at her before a leadership ballot last year. ‘Defiance’ and ‘fatalism’: could there be a better twofold characterisation of the work of Mary Scott? Could there be a more important moment for us to think on the relevance of the feminist project to the lived experiences of Australian women?
Creator of intense dramas and claustrophobic domestic tableaux, Scott is the mistress of the anxious moment. Gender proscriptions and normative prohibitions; problematised erotics and sublimated traumas; the opaque complexity of emotions: these are her subjects, realised in works that describe direct embodied protests.
Scott’s is an expanded autobiographical practice that uses the self not solipsistically, but intuitively so as to reaffirm the centrality of the body – specifically but not exclusively, the female body – to political and social discourses. In her latest investigation, Black Powder, Scott brings a new tone: a note of urgency. Black powder: fuelled by charcoal, highly combustible but frustratingly slow-burning.
Jackie Dunn - excerpt
Mary Scott: Black Powder
In this ambitious installation, Mary Scott has experimented her way to an unsettling new take on some familiar themes around the body and its relationship to power. These intensely worked surfaces — marked and rubbed and erased — bear the traces of Scott’s own body over time, as she sifts through the cultural image bank and reinvests it with material presence. Significantly, Scott has focused her inquiry on the human face and gesture. That conceptual focus is complemented by her formal decisions that create a powerful dialogue between figure and frame, darkness and light: the faces appear and disappear, tightly bounded at one moment, exceeding their confines at another. Even when the images overflow the edges of the paper, they maintain their formal and, by extension, their psychological tension. Constrained to the point of contortion, it is in the very exertion of self-control that the faces threaten to disintegrate. Yet in the process of disintegration there potentially emerges another face — another surface, another interface between world and subject, another ground for encounter as symbolized by the dense charcoal wall Scott has placed at the installation’s entrance.
Jacqueline Millner - excerpt
IMAGES: Mary Scott, Black Powder, installation 2013. Charcoal and pastel on paper and on walls. Photos Peter Angus Robinson