APPLES + PEARS
This was my first solo exhibition after graduating from art school. It was held at Seedling Art Space in the Adelaide hills, which was an experimental orchard in the 1900s. I had the opportunity to respond to the site and create a work based on its history.
Julia Robinson, 2010
The work of Carolina Facelli engages with some of the most ancient and fundamental functions of visual art: memorial and commemoration. The artist’s past works have recreated memories and experiences of home by bringing barely remembered objects and tableaux back to life, albeit drained of colour. Facelli’s repertoire of materials included sanded grey box board, carved limestone, etched balsa wood and pale embossed paper. Hers was a world of de-saturated colour, neutral tones and fuzzy edges – fuzzy like memory itself. It also spoke of a personal realm that aimed to broaden its audience by making the experience accessible to all, tapping into a collective memory of sorts.
Apples & Pears sees a broader collective memory called into play. Far too young to remember the experimental orchard that is now home to Seedling Art Space, Facelli nonetheless delves into the place’s history and conjures up real objects. We now find a room full of pallid apples and pears, real enough to the touch but still barely there. She is bringing the orchard back, asking us to remember it despite having never experienced it first hand.
The experimental aspect of the orchard is as important to Facelli as the inherent domesticity of the space. Her materials may still be monochromatic but she is testing her own recently discovered limits, conducting her own material experiments to move the work forward. In previous works Facelli tried casting plaster fruit but the hand made, slavishly made, time consuming aspect was lost in these efforts. This work sees the logic of the mass produced more integrated, more effectual. We are confronted with the mass produced versus the hand made, two processes combined in the one show; some pieces carefully formed and distinctly hand made with the blush of human imperfection on their skin, others made over and over with a basic mould, churned out machine-like to fill the void. Her apples and pears are of several distinct varieties, each one a different flavour, each one evoking a different feeling. They sit comfortably alongside one another with even the plaster cast fruit bearing scars of an imperfect process. The human hand is always evident.
In this way the work speaks of finding the form through the making process. Facelli is finding the ideal pear or apple with her hands, calling it up out of nothing, improving and changing it with each new material. It is not hard to see parallels between Facelli’s making process and the scientific modification and cross breeding once employed by the orchard.
Yet in the simple domesticity of the space, there is another reading to the work, one that does not rely on knowledge of the site’s origins. In a room filled with clusters of apples and pears arranged carefully, we cannot help but think of the humble still life. At once both fleeting and enduring, Facelli’s fruit calls to mind the mantra of the memento mori: remember you will die; remember you will rot. Facelli seems to recall the first still life she painted, the black and white tonal study, the fake plastic pear, the ubiquitous apple. These elemental forms rearranged and redrawn by a hundred different art students are now reinvented by the sure hands of a sculptor. Although her fruit cannot perish, there is transience even in its seemingly solid state, the potential to melt, break, snap.
Like fake fruit displays in old greengrocers’ windows, or waxy polished apples designed to make your mouth water we are perhaps left overall with a feeling of delight in the work. We walk away with our own memories of an orchard, our own memories of eating fruit and that perfect ripe apple.
Photography Credit: Mark Zed