JUDY DARRAGH and her tooooooooth from New Zealand
Her words: A thought I have been having lately is to remove the word ‘contemporary’ from contemporary art … If we liberate the word, art becomes more about the now, the present. There is a need to locate art in some frame of time. I make things mainly from materials sourced from the heap our lives throw up.
To have success you need to have failure … failure is never planned and it comes with no trace of cynicism. I find I work best in a less thinking state that allows these mishaps and chances to happen – when looking for materials I let the objects find me. We are schooled not to make errors. We judge failure in amounts: too bright, too illustrative, too messy. The excessive is the preferred judgement of failure.*
My words: It’s a still life, and a relic or the way art mixes natural with cultural history. When life is painted, a symbolic form wraps ideas that surge from inexplicable needs, even Picasso throwing up colors that had filled his body to the top. But here, with Judy Darragh, the tooth is real. Ivory and enamel, root and shape like a bloody new born: separated from us, body parts look messy. As a part of Judy’s body, the tooth can only be missed and loved like the tube in the snowman longing for the stove, it was a story by Hans Christian Andersen.
Art changes with us as we live. “Visible reality, the facts of the world and of the human body, are much more full of subtle nuances, and are much more poetic than what imagination discovers.” (Garcia Lorca)
Yet, it’s imagination that gives them meaning. This artist is from New Zealand and lives in Auckland. She has a talent for making fun of the veneer of grandeur that still covers the real story of a dead empire: British colonialism in a Maori island. Indirectly, she is contaminated by the Maori spirit. And I can’t pull out of my mind the idea that her tooth — such a belligerant tool mashing veggies and meat to help the stomach — placed like an alien on an anonymous island, is a relic of a history she has absorbed to the very bones, and is now in front of her, personal and impersonal. To bite the apple, Adam and Eve’s teeth drove them out of the paradise.
Judy Darragh, and her he and her it, are a factory of sweet punches and kisses on lips bursting out of the deadliest object one can imagine: plastic leaves, fake roses, synthetic stones. But a new life explodes from each piece, even a heart made out of fake stones can bleed, and a tooth dried up of her pulp and nerves replaces The Crown without masks. As it is.
*From an interview with Tessa Laird 2013