If you’ve already seen this on Instagram my apologies, but the lovely co-director of Bilk, Mio Kuhnen, let the world know over the weekend that two of my pieces from the recent Body Politic exhibition in Canberra were just acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. This takes their Melissa Cameron tally up to 3!
I was in a bit of shock to have such a long and considered gallery visit with Dr Robert Bell (curator of decorative arts at the NGA) while I was in Canberra, on the day before the official opening of the show. He was very inquisitive, and if you’re read any of the text surrounding these works, you’ll have seen that there are a lot of stories to tell, so I was honoured to impart my narrative of these and the other works. He even asked my opinion – what I thought of the pieces he was deliberating and why – and I had to tell him that it took me a long time to come to terms with the Tank piece especially, as I found it brutal and dark when I first finished it.
Finishing that work as one of the earliest in the series – the Cannon and Tank were conceived at the same time – made continuing and then creating even more complex pieces an easier pill to swallow. I look back now and see that they were really just a prelude to the Gun piece, which, while only completed in late 2013 early 2014, was really begun with the horrific events in Sandy Hook in December of 2012. I see now that I put those details away for a while, and decided to start in more neutral territory – a Civil War era cannon and an M1 Abrams tank as fitted out for use by the Australian Army, as a sort of way to first test and then brace myself before moving deeper into this series.
I had a terrible grief-ridden winter this year as I finished up this series, and while the Drone probably didn’t help, I can’t say it hurt either. I now conflate the two in my memory. The Drone and last winter were inevitable, and surviving each of them needed the other as a crutch, in a sort of incongruous symbiosis.
But before all that, when I just had a Tank and a Cannon in my arsenal, I wasn’t sure if I would continue. The duo could have easily remained an outlier, an experiment that was discontinued before it had really begun. So it’s also them I have to thank for begetting the rest of the Escalation series, including the Drone that got me through.
Goodbye good friends, I hope to see you again some time 😉