From the Back Shed

Exhibition review House and Home Anne Neil and Steve Tepper Fremantle Art Centre galleries, grounds and craft shop 25 May - 16 June 1996

The shed at the bottom of the garden - that repository of relics deemed obsolete, but not rubbish – by no means singularly a male domain – surrenders its eclectic hoard to the selective appetite of the artist to be reincarnated. The reborn objects carry with them the nostalgic patina of a past redolent with memories and associations.

Western Australian sculptors Anne Neil and Steve Tepper in their current joint exhibition House and Home, at the Fremantle Arts Centre, continue working with themes begun during their six month exchange residency in Basel, Switzerland, in l994. Interested in the ways we personalise the spaces we inhabit to make them 'ours', and being away from home without a supply of materials they utilised found objects, reinventing them.

This eclectic gathering of household paraphernalia is evidenced in Steve Tepper's series of lights. Assembled from discards with titles evoking a former existence, bike-pumps, funnels, oil-cans and irons have been preserved and live anew. No Fishing, for instance, comprises an old sardine tin for a shade, a fishing rod, and a lead base cast in the sardine tin as a mould like the home made sinker.
While Tepper's lights may suggest masculine pursuits such as fishing or tinkering in the shed that accord with escape from the domestic sphere, Neil's work explores the domestic scene from a female perspective.

Offering, located in the central hallway, comprised row upon row of translucent wax bowls suspended over a bed of rice. The sacred bowl with its uterine symbolic meaning, cast in the wax of the Christian ritual candle, combined with the Asian spiritual offering of rice, speaks of the timeless, universal, domestic routines of women.

Flanking this ceremonial offering to the deities the word 'HELP' is carved into the architrave and continues the length of the walls speaking of entrapment experiences in the domestic scene. This work is particularly haunting, located in the building that one hundred years ago was used to incarcerate women deemed lunatics. Many of whom would now be diagnosed as suffering pre menstrual tension.

The glossy exterior of the myth of homemaking is questioned in the beach ball installations sited on the roof and in the hallway. The brightly coloured beach balls are printed with the words: "This is nøt a life saving device".

The disturbing reality that the picket-fenced suburban sanctuary may not be the life raft of fantasy-filled happy-ever-afters is further explored in Earth to Earth. situated in the grounds. The fenced-in security of suburbia may also represent confinement in a stifling existence. The cruciform charred 'Windsor' fence pickets standing in the back courtyard speak also of loss. The burnt jarrah pickets symbolise the influence of European colonisation and the subsequent desecration of the forest environment.

This exhibition is the first in a series entitled The Artist in Focus Project. being mounted by the Centre. The exhibitions will look at the diversity of practice of craft artists producing production lines and individual exhibition pieces. As part of the format work is also for sale in the Arts Centre Craft Shop. Steve Tepper's steel wire and paper table lamps and Anne Neil's gold plated cookie cutter lapel pins are exhibited here. Neil's utilitarian cutters, transformed into 'treasure', reveal another layer of the artistic practice of Neil and Tepper in their reworking of ready made objects.

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