“It’s about body as a communication device, or body as this form that is sometimes unrecognisable, or that can make a really exquisite shape.”
Melbourne artist Zoe Croggon talks a lot about shape and silhouette, about the “purity of the line”, and about the beautiful and unexpected forms that the trained body can create.
To listen to her speak, you could be forgiven for thinking Croggon was a choreographer or a dancer rather than a visual artist. And from the moment she arrives for our interview, it’s clear Croggon must have at least some experience with professional dance (she has the tell-tale soft walk and stiff back of a ballerina).
As Croggon explains, she studied ballet off and on when she was young, but her interest in the form has been reignited in recent years. “For the past five or six years I’ve been doing classical ballet again, and it’s become a real focal point for my work.”
Ballet features routinely in Croggon’s photo-collages, but for her most recent exhibition at Daine Singer (on until 26 December) it’s joined by other extreme athletic practices – like gymnastics and springboard diving – which share ballet's fixation with bodily precision, shape and line.
Croggon has experimented with sculpture and video, but she works most often in collage. “You don’t want something to be too recognisable, or iconic,” she says of her selection process, “It needs to be average, but have a singular beauty to it that you can abstract.”
She finds images in old books, brochures and catalogues, and then sets about pairing them together, finding a fibre of continuity that connects the two images. The line of a leg extends the line of a building; the curve of a wall follows the curve of a back. The results are deceptively simple photo-collages that blur the human body with other other forms - wilderness, industrial scenery and architectural spaces in particular.
Although Croggon calls it collage, the process reminds me more of montage: two images sliced and stuck together, calling each other into conversation. “When I first started making collage it was this mess, all of these things at once,” she says, “then the more I did, the less elements I used until it became just two; just that coupling.”
In earlier works (some of which can currently be seen in Melbourne Now), Croggon paired bodies with scenes of nature and wilderness. She drew connections between their similar shapes and silhouettes, and a similar sense of tension and movement. “I used to use much more classically beautiful shapes, more balletic shapes, that were more fluid and organic.”
In her current exhibition, titled Deuce, Croggon has paired bodies with architectural forms. The bodies are abstracted, cut down to a single limb or line of muscle. The architecture is sparse and minimal; there are lots of luxury interiors.
I like the change in focus, which suits Croggon’s particular aesthetic. She isn’t, it seems, interested in soft, natural figures but rather hard, refined, athletic bodies. Croggon’s bodies are fastidiously conditioned and sculptured, meticulously arranged. “They’re not casual poses,” she agrees, “they’re the trained body in action.”
>> Maura Edmond
>> Posted 27 November, 2013
Zoe Croggon's collages can currently be seen at Daine Singer gallery and in Melbourne Now at the NGV. Croggon has been short-listed for the $100,000 Basil Sellers Art Prize, and her new work will be exhibited, along with the other finalists, at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in July 2014.
GO SEE IT:
14 November - 21 December, 2013
Basement 325, Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Wed - Sat 12pm - 5pm
22 November, 2013 - 23 March, 2014
National Gallery of Victoria