Artist Spotlight: Gemma Ben-Ary

A recent acquisition by Perth-based artist Gemma Ben-Ary is included in the current exhibition From the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth.

The work’s purchase was supported by funds raised by Sheila’s Champions Donor Circle, one of five works purchased in the Champion Circle’s first year of operation.

Gemma Ben-Ary The Abyss (series II) 2021-2022, oyster shells, glass eyes, polymer clay, dimensions variable (13 pieces)

Lee Kinsella discusses the work in her essay in the exhibition catalogue

Similar to Norrie’s blindfolded woman, Gemma Ben-Ary’s unblinking glass eyes appear uncanny and disconcerting. Ben-Ary references tropes relating to vision and power; of looking and being looked upon. The Abyss works refer to the countless sentient eyes that witness environmental devastation and ecosystems on the brink of collapse. The eyes continue to watch as humans pursue destructive actions and there is a sense that all animals represented, human and other, are equally at risk. Ben-Ary’s embellished oyster-shell works are contemporary expressions of the tradition of jewelled miniature love mementos from the 18th century. With just the eye of their lover or partner painted and worn, the portrait is both specific yet able to conceal their lover’s identity. As much as a mask conceals one’s identity, the focus upon a single eye also safely disguises the sitter. When challenged by representations that interrupt or defy our expectations, we begin to recognise the constructed nature of what is presented as ‘truth’, the ‘conventional’ or ‘natural’.

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