16 September -
29 October 2023
Gertrude Contemporary21-31 High Street, Preston South
16 September – 29 October 2023
In the Belly of Mary Shelley is the first institutional solo exhibition in Melbourne by Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos. Drawing upon the set design and psychological impact of German expressionist theatre and film, the environment creates an armature for the presentation of three interrelated filmic works. Across this trio of animations, the narrative arc unfolds to imagine periods of a fictional protagonist’s life cycle: from a period of play and innocence; coming of age; and in the third, a transition from care, to shell, to memory. At play is a reflection on a consciousness of the body, evolving a sense of self, to naïve sense of care, to anxieties about the body, to the potential (and indeed, option) to create life. Contos has long employed collage and assemblage to draw on existing imagery, and to collapse, reorder and reimagine representations of female figures to create layered tapestries of strength, resilience, and emotional complexity. Through the use of emerging artificial intelligence technologies, she opens up new methodologies for narrative construction, evolving the possibility of temporal progression within these moving image works.
In referencing author Mary Shelley, the project connotes her seminal work Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and its cautions around humankind’s interest in experimenting with the creation of new life forms, and the ethical quandaries and existential threats that might arise out of such. But so too does it pay homage to the author of the proto science fiction novel, acknowledge her youth at the time of this accomplishment, and remind us that the work was, at least in its first edition, published anonymously. Contos’ practice frequently creates works that are highly personal, pays tribute to strong female figures and their legacies, and creates space to reflect on the complexities of desire, longing, uncertainty and vulnerability.
Sarah Contos was born in Perth and lives and works in Sydney. Selected recent solo exhibitions include: Death of a New Romantic, Station, Melbourne (2022); The Bite Mark of a Butterfly, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (1999); Nikola Tesla Sends Theda Bara to Mars, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2018); The Revenge of Alexis Colby, Australian Experimental Arts Foundation, Adelaide (2016); and Ladies and Gentlemen Sarah Contos Presents: The Muses and the Folly, Heide Museum of Modern Art Project Space (as part of Future Primitive), Melbourne (2013). Selected group exhibitions include: Pliable Planes: Expanded Textiles & Fibre Practices, University of New South Wales Galleries, Sydney (2022); Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2020); Mine, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2019); Femmage, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2019); This is not a love song, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2017); The Great Strike, 1917, Carriageworks, Sydney (2017); and 21st Century Heide, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2015). In 2018 she was awarded the 2018 Ramsay Art Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Sarah Contos is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Station, Melbourne.
This project has been supported by David Clouston and Michael Schwarz.