Belinda Giddins, Mandy Ridley and Sandra Selig

Exhibition review by David Broker for Artlink, Issue 17:4 | December 1997.
For group exhibition Parlour, Metro Arts, Brisbane, Queensland, 1997.

Transcript also available at

Parlour is a potent evocation of the 'talking room' with an air of disturbance taking us on the journey of intrigue for which the parlour has become recognised in popular mythology. This may not have been exactly as the artists and curators intended; however, in this loaded environment of West End melodrama, Alfred Hitchcock movies and Henry James novels it is difficult to distance oneself too far from the familiar.

Parlour is a project of 'emerging' artists and curators who reassessed their roles for an effort which emphasised collaboration. "In the space of this installation", says Linda Carroli in her catalogue essay, "those separations, interrogations and displacements integral to the work of Belinda Giddins, Mandy Ridley and Sandra Selig can more readily occur through a process of collaboration and dialogue." The success of this process is evident in a finely balanced installation which while not reducing the individuality of each artist's work, ultimately levels and directs each work towards a distinct common vision. The inspired placing of works with attention to the idiosyncratic architecture of the gallery, transforms the ravages of time into a site of elegant present and presence.

Central in space but not in significance are Belinda Giddins' two facing pieces which add a touch of the gothic. With a minimal use of materials and objects Giddins has been able to evoke something of the hysteria we associate with the imagination of Mary Shelley. On one side of the gallery crimson drapes cascade from ceiling to floor like a cataract of blood, both terrifying and beautiful. On the opposite wall she has drawn in charcoal on a white brick wall a trompe l'oeil alcove flanked by two tiny bound locks of hair set in cases, "decorative mementos of an absent body" on the mantelpiece of the romantic psyche.

Mandy Ridley's painted carpet tiles which encompass a history of luxurious carpet design, ornament the conceptual edges of this exhibition. While maintaining a powerful presence via the familiarity of their design, their reference to function generates a paradoxical air of humility. Huysman may well have appreciated their opulence and their illusory authenticity, both of which elicit the desire for a life style most of us can only ever experience vicariously.

Sandra Selig slices up a piano and that is a crime. This precious instrument is a symbol of "civilised" society and a point around which a culture of refinement gathered. Arranged in pieces throughout the gallery, its metaphorical soul laid bare, the mutilated piano provokes a discordance suggesting that all is not well in the chamber of sanctuary.

It is not difficult to imagine that behind the scenes of this exhibition, the artists and curators were busily authoring their own version of a parlour by constructing a site of exchange where the machinations of a successful exhibition might be plotted. While Parlour does not intend to "exalt the authentic" and "allusions to reality... are merely illusion", I have found it difficult to extract myself from a history of dark representations. This after all, is the place where the spider invited the fly, and not for a friendly chat.