Review in The Age, May 12, 2010

Caught up in a tangled web of mystery and suspense

Reviewer, Dan Rule

First Born, the inaugural collaboration between Melbourne-based artists Robert Doble and Simon Strong at Block Projects, utilises the image of the human body to dramatically different ends. Comprising eight huge photographic and gloss enamel works mounted on aluminium composite, the show deconstructs and mutates the archetypically flawless human image.

Naked, perfectly proportioned male and female models assuming various sensuous poses are interrupted by intense, dominating swirls of enamel. Faces are obscured, bodies are flayed open with splotches and splatters of bloody paint. It’s corporeal, visceral, graphic to the point of near horror. Yellow and opaque blooms grow over a naked female form in Chromoplast, the seemingly fungal matter glowing obscenely against faultless black skin. Gore-like splatters cloak faces. Scars, tubes and medical receptacles link subjects like a chain.

There’s a fascinating polarity to the works. The paint acts as a violent gesture towards photographs; it turns the body inside out. The violence seems to allude to the unnatural sheen of fashion photograph. It illustrates that the flawless body is in fact a living bag of blood and guts. Another vantage, however, might see such an unearthing as a paean to the mystique and poetry of human form and a reflection on the dehumanising horror of the surgical table.


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