Artist Lexi Land. By Benjamen Judd.
In it’s beginning, theatre was more than entertainment. Influenced by the ecstatic practices of the Orphic Mysteries (whose adherents worshipped the God of Madness and Wine, Dionysus), theatre was a way of expressing the deep truths of the human condition. It was dark, often terrifying, but it could also be joyful and an expression of otherworldly beauty. It was a way of touching the face of the divine.
In her latest show, Bone Palace Surreal, Sydney-based artist Lexi Land revisits the traditional purpose of theatre – the embodiment of dreams, myth and, yes, nightmares. Using her body as both surface and subject, Lexi reenacts some of our most primordial myths surrounding birth, sex, death and ultimately rebirth. It’s a fascinating peek into the back corners of the imagination where fear and ecstasy mingle in peculiar unison.
I had the opportunity to chat with Lexi beforehand and learn a little bit more about what propelled the creation of Bone Palace Surreal and some of the ideas behind the images.
INTERVIEW WITH LEXI LAND
Your latest exhibition, Bone Palace Surreal, touches on the idea of performance and theatre within art. Can you tell me more about what inspired this collection?
I’ve always been interested in performance. It’s a way to illuminate my existence. Bone Palace Surreal had many threads of inspiration – one being Herman Hesse’s ‘Steppenwolf’. I wanted to create my own demented theatre – a place beyond reality where I could explore expression.
Like a fisherman goes to the ocean to catch fish and uses a baited rod, his catch eventually feeding him… the theatre becomes my ocean using my physicality to catch whatever it is I’m looking to hook, feed and have nourish me.
The process is layered, I’m not looking to create a picture to hang on a wall but to explore in depth a surreal state of being – bringing the mysterious to life and fleshing out it’s bones – it’s a mode of discovery and it’s always unfolding.
A continuous thread in your work is your own body – its presence permeates your images and tends to be more canvas than the canvas or paper itself. Is there a reason behind this?
Firstly because it’s incredibly convenient – I’m always around to be used. And secondly that’s precisely what I want to say… I am here, I exist, this is my structure – which leads to deeper questions like – what is here, what exists etc… my main source of inspiration is existence – to be alive and breathing – questioning keeps me entertained and ultimately that’s all life is – pretty damn entertaining!
Untitled (preview) | Mixed Media-Performance Still | Museum Quality Archival Paper | 45cm x 45cm
To me, Bone Palace Surreal seems the least personal in the chronology of your work. Was this a deliberate turning away from introspection?
I’m surprised you think that… well not surprised, nothing is that surprising but I don’t agree. It is definitely personal and introspective…it’s a theatre built within me. I am the theatre, the figure that appears is also me…naked I am born, the red signifies birth, sex, death; it’s a stage to free my psyche, my spirit and the flesh that binds me…maybe that’s why you felt it wasn’t as personal or introspective because I am freeing my persona and slipping mad and drunk into the mysterious realm of the ambiguous surreal?
I think maybe the reason that I saw this as the least personal is because you seem to be so lost in the performance itself – which is what any good actor does. Would you say then that this series is really a dramatic act where you play yourself playing yourself but in a grander scheme of life’s stage?
Your interpretation is interesting but for me it’s not so much a deliberate ‘act’ where I’m playing a role…Bone Palace Surreal is a question. It’s a real-surreal, strange land, a place to reveal my bare-bones in the maddened night. It’s my unconscious, my conscious – a dream and it’s dangerously alive and unknown.
My previous works are of my image in a void, separate from anything and isolated, making the work all about the figure – now, for the first time in this series, I am somewhere, I’m suddenly in an environment – doing something… but it is still introspective and personal because symbolically the environment I’m in is just as void and only an extension of me.
How did you develop the concept behind the Bone Palace Surreal?
It began as a taste… a sudden vision, bones, erotic, flesh, dark, moody, pussy, opera, strange land, raw, twisted, I use words, write short stories and poems about the initial taste – then came performance which as mentioned is more like ritual – I painted bones on my body, sculptured masks, to breath life into the figure, I kept writing, sketching, dreaming. Once the performances were filmed and I had some strange footage – I captured the figures and began the constructing – drawing and collage.
Originally, theatre was a spiritual experience. Was there a particular myth, or mythic, tradition that you worked with when developing this series?
Were there any artists, or performances, that you looked to for inspiration during the piece?
I never intentionally ‘look’ or research for inspiration but often find once the concept has been conceived I coincidentally happen on things during the process that inspire and relate in perfect alignment to what I’m creating.
The name itself was inspired by a book of poetry by Charles Bukowski ‘Bone Palace Ballet’ this title ignited a vision in me about 15 years ago when a friend gave me the book. As mentioned earlier Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, the drawings of Hans Bellmer are a continuous inspiration, Francis Bacon’s paintings – the figure on a platform/stage and Antonin Artaud.
All artist portraits taken by Sydney based photographer Kiki Sjoberg.
‘BONE PALACE SURREAL’ A solo exhibition by Lexi Land
On a liquid-lit path, void of time, shadows lay open beyond my mind and threads of consciousness unravel to reveal, the dark beauty of strange land at the ‘Bone Palace Surreal’. A theatre of sorts, where things aren’t what they seem ‘for mad men only’ – born where poets dream entering through the mysterious light to ignite and unfold, in the depths of night a figure appears – jewelled in bone alive and breathing, standing alone her ribs build a cage, for her heart to break open and on her red womb of a stage is where her flesh is awoken – Lexi Land
The ‘Bone Palace Surreal’ opens at the studio on Wednesday 29th October, 6.30pm-9.30pm.
Proudly sponsored by Two Birds Brewing and Naked Wines Australia.
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