Five delicate flags mark the way as we navigate Mikala Dwyer’s installation Soft Relics. Steel supports distort and bend under an omnipresent weight conveyed by the totemic relics that surround them.
The silhouette of a gnome, guardian of the underground and keen alchemist, holds post at the entrance of the exhibition.
A block of raw clay lies waiting, wet and wrapped in plastic, full of potential and malleable energy. Nearby, one of the blocks infinite trajectories takes form, squeezed and moulded into a considered shape by the artists’ hands.
Nefertiti, known for her defiant practice of only worshiping Aten (the sun disc god), begins to break the mould of her earthen glaze, gazing through a stained veil to a piece of sun bleached hessian that adorns the wall.
Three monolithic Moai - repositories of supernatural power – have had their iconography appropriated, mass produced and repurposed, yet still hold a gravity and presence in the room, proving their mythology will remain long after we are gone.
St. Jude, who sits central to the exhibition, is said to be called upon in prayer when hope is needed in times of desperation. Opposite, a broken cauldron is no longer able to safeguard the precious metals from the earth that it once kept, nor can it be used to brew its healing potions.
The motif of the letterbox returns, with a gnome, Nefertiti and St. Jude all offering us a place to leave an unanswered letter, a note, our thoughts, our prayers.
A green ‘U’ (‘YOU’) now becomes a ‘ME’ in its inverted position. It is slightly worse for wear, showing signs of cracking beneath its silicone bandages. All the while Mary patiently holds her position, arms extended and palms exposed, trying to shift the impossible.
—Andrew Moran, 2018
Mikala Dwyer has been exhibiting internationally since 1982. Last year she mounted a major retrospective entitled Mikala Dwyer: A Shape of Thought at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. The artist’s large-scale installation work Square Cloud Compound (2015) was exhibited in Encounters at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2015. Solo exhibitions include The garden of half-life, University of Sydney Art Gallery, Sydney (2014); Goldene Bend’er, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2013); Mikala Dwyer: Panto Collapsar, Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2012); Mikala Dwyer: Drawing Down the Moon, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012); Square Cloud Compound, Hamish Morrison Galerie, Berlin (2010); Moon Garden, Aratoi Museum, Masterton NZ (2008); Black Sun Blue Moon, Hamish Morrison Galeri, Berlin (2007); Mikala Dwyer: an Australian artist’s project, City Gallery Wellington (2002); Mikala Dwyer, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2000).
Group exhibitions include Dead Ringer at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth (2015); Dämmerschlaf, Artspace, Sydney (2016); Quicksilver, Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide, (2016); Magnetism, Hazelwood House, Sligo, Ireland (2015); Hall of Half Life, Graz Museum, Austria; 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Cockatoo Island, Sydney (2014); The End of the 20th Century. The Best is Yet to Come. A Dialogue with the Marx Collection, Hamburger Banhof, Berlin, Germany (2013); Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); Less is More: Minimal and Post-Minimal Art in Australia, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria (2012); Plus ou moins sorcières 2/3: épreuves ritualisées, La Maison Populaire, Paris (2012); Lost and Found: An Archaeology of the Present, TarraWarra Biennial, ‘Healesville (2008); Mystic Truths, Auckland Art Gallery (2007); Den Haag Sculptuur 2007 De Overkant/Down Under, The Hague (2007); High Tide, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius and Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw; Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia, Hamburger Bahnhoff, Berlin (2003); OrientATION, 4th International Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul (1995) and Australian Perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, curated by Victoria Lynn (1993).
Dwyer’s work has been widely collected by institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Heide Museum of Modern Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Old and New Art.
Mikala Dwyer has been represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 2009.