24 May – 30 June 2007

Vivienne Shark LeWitt’s exhibition Misc. features five recent paintings in her distinctive cartoon-esque style. Traversing various subjects and moments in time, LeWitt has mined literary traditions, advertising and the natural world to produce an eclectic group of paintings that reveal absurdities and conundrums in contemporary experience. History, parables, human foibles and social graces are all examined with characteristic wit and nonchalance. In Cease and Desist (2006) LeWitt has recreated a scene from Hillaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (1907) where a bad child chases a piglet, clearly oblivious to the silent “tsks” from authority figures overhead. The small boy’s behaviour is at once amusing, repellent and familiar. LeWitt’s genius is her intuitive understanding of the human psyche: we recognise ourselves in these pictures and empathize with her portrayal of humanity. At the same time the pictures are satirical comments; spaces in which social norms we usually take for granted suddenly appear peculiar and arbitrary.

Underlying each painting in Misc. is a sense of timelessness. In LeWitt’s painted episodes human nature is not susceptible to fashion but remains predictable across generations. Ageless home truths are revealed through telling details and subtle descriptions of character: the squint of the “provincial” woman’s eyes evoking the pleasure of gossip, or the stance of the goat’s wrist signalling cultured refinement. Through a restrained use of line and minimal form, LeWitt’s delicately executed paintings replicate the freshness of cartoons. But while cartoons typically relinquish their punch line immediately, these droll paintings are not always so forthcoming. Instead they tantalize us with narrative as our minds subconsciously fill in the implications of the moment illustrated. Layered with possible meanings and associations, the unexpected gravity of LeWitt’s work is perfectly tempered by her exquisite lightness-of-touch. 

—Olivia Sophia

Vivienne Shark LeWitt has exhibited in numerous solo and significant group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including Australian Perspecta (1983 and 1987); the Biennale of Sydney (1986 and 1988); the Melbourne International Biennial: Signs of life (1999); It’s Beautiful Day: New Painting in Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2002); and most recently, See here now at the Ian Potter Museum, University of Melbourne (2003). In 2008 the Ian Potter Museum will be holding a survey exhibition of her work, curated by Bala Starr. Shark LeWitt is represented in major collections in Australia and abroad, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Vivienne Shark LeWitt has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1982.

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