#welcomenotwelcome an exhibition by Hilary Wardhaugh
An Artist In Conversation Event will be held on Sunday 19th August at 2pm.
The Canberra Times’ art critic Peter Haynes reviewed the show along with Marzena Wasikowska’s Journey Reluctantly Taken and Grace Blake’s Sprite.
Opened Photoaccess 26th July 6pm. All welcome
Thanks to the very talented and wonderful Belinda Pratten for her Essay about the exhibition. Please scroll down to read!
The title #welcomenotwelcome is derived from a popular Social media hashtag #SorryNotSorry a phrase used in irony.
This work addresses ironies and contradictions in contemporary life when considering issues like privacy and yet having an incessant desire and compulsion to promote and share every detail of our lives online.
Many Governments across the world are leaning to the right to the benefit of the few; they talk of fear, protectionism and fake news. Mainstream media bias is obvious but only to those who do not agree. We have become reactive and socially isolated. We build walls and hide from real life on our phones, promoting virtual second life.
There has been a rise in Online activism which sometimes can benefit us in real life. We often feel helpless.
Often however the rise of social media encourages a culture of uniformity and superficiality whilst ironically demanding inclusion and diversity.
Ultimately these platforms are designed and driven within the Neo-liberal context of wealth concentration into the hands of a few.
So this collection of Images of everyday urban spaces illustrate these contradictions, seemingly surreptitiously….. walls, closed windows, fences…. Spaces designed not to see; Spaces finished with, thriving with neglect, all whilst we ignore what is going on around us, eyes cast downwards silently shrieking injustices via our fingertips.
However, hope is not lost! I still feel that with each image there is a little hope or at least a subversive irony…: A hole in the fence here or a expletive there!
#welcomenotwelcome Essay By Belinda Pratten
Hilary Wardhaugh’s series #welcomenotwelcome is an oblique and wily self-portrait. Wardhaugh’s sardonic sense of humour and wit is on show in her dark, and sometimes comedic, images as she takes an ironic look at today’s society.
As a child, Wardhaugh remembers her mother telling her that it’s Australian to keep the curtains closed, so you don’t have to clean the windows. Recently, she drew an analogy between this parochial life hack and the online world. These days, details of everyone’s seemingly perfect lives are online, generally for all to view, but at home they sit behind closed curtains with an often very different reality to what they post to the outside world. Wardhaugh’s introspection on what is private and what is on display, or what is welcome or not welcome, started taking shape.
In 2016, Wardhaugh came across a mural at Queanbeyan pool, showing peace, inclusiveness and people of different cultures painted on the side of a building. She instantly noticed the irony that this beautiful and inspiring work was behind a two- metre chain fence, with wheelie bins obscuring part of it. This dark ironic view of the everyday urban landscape continues through Wardhaugh’s series.
However, easily missed, there’s hope in every one of Wardhaugh’s images. In ‘Waste to Landfill’ there’s hope in the faces of the painted people and with the white doves soaring above. In ‘If I Had a Welcome Mat I’d be a Fucking Liar’ the hedge, or barrier to the moody open skies, is littered with pretty, colourful flowers. ‘**clusion’ and ‘Low Clearance’ have the road bending around hopefully into the future. In ‘Build A Fence’ there’s another wall or barrier to the beyond, but beyond there are blue skies and a hint of life and ‘Portal to a Parallel Universe’ the hope lies in the foreground that could be reached through a small hole in the fence. This small hole may seem an anomaly but to Wardhaugh it’s an opening to something more, escapism from the mundane and even glimmers of hope reflecting Wardhaugh’s optimism
Wardhaugh invites us to “look up” in ‘Smile’. The work is a tactile diptych and the viewer must engage with it to see the second image. This found chalked graffiti could be from the same hand and maybe is a personal statement reflecting greater community sentiment. ‘Smile’ at once welcomes the viewer and in the next instant pushes you back. This tension builds in every image in the show and the bricks in this gritty diptych complement the show’s found scenes of mundane and often banal walls or dividers illustrating a wry look of humanity where we cultivate online lives that hide our true reality and potentially fuel social isolation.
In ‘#hashtag’ Wardhaugh has made a work out of a series on inverted portraits, reflecting her reaction to the isolating nature of the online world. The people in the photographs are completely transfixed on technology. The repetition of people doing the same thing gives a robotic feel, as does the inversion of tones. The asterisk cross stitch hashtag over the image is an ‘Orwellian’ warning, screaming at us to again “look up”!