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Mikala Dwyer

Untitled  1995

organza fabric, pins

6 parts: 110 × 320cm installed, approx.

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with the assistance of stART, MCA Young Patrons, 1997


About the Artwork

The six shimmering fabric forms pinned to the wall of Mikala Dwyer’s Untitled resemble discarded party dresses and deflated balloons, collapsed trophies of a girls’ night out. Empty and unfilled, they can only hint at their filled shapes – a cube, a cone, a triangular prism. These kinds of geometric forms, cast in bronze and steel, are the mainstay of formalist sculpture – their hard-edged and rigid surfaces occupying the public squares and forecourts of cities everywhere.

Dwyer counteracts the assumed masculinity of that formalism in this wall sculpture through a focus on feminine materials like organza, chosen for its qualities of softness, fluidity and lightness. In doing so, she picks up on Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures and the hanging felt forms of Robert Morris of the 1960s, and orients them towards an exploration of femininity and a reevaluation of the geometric underpinnings of formalism.

It was important that you could see through those forms. I was looking at the underlining, ubiquitous geometry which I saw as underpinning formalism. Also an idea of purity. People don’t argue with it [formal geometry]. It’s a given. Everything’s built on those premises and it’s the shape of logic. I started questioning: ‘whose logic?’ what does logic look like? What’s the shape of my logic?’ and trying to understand why everything’s built on those kind of things.

Mikala Dwyer, 2004

Mikala Dwyer

– About the artist

Born 1959, Sydney. Lives and works Sydney.

Mikala Dwyer’s practice is predominantly installation-based, in which she constructs idiosyncratic, personal spaces within the conventional architecture of the gallery, using materials that have a strong association with the body. Her interest in working within and against architecture is a reaction to the imperatives of ‘good design’ – Scandinavian modernism in particular. Her installations and sculptures are experimental and experiential architectures that play with the permeable and changeable nature of objects and our relationship with them. Her materials – plastic, fabric, plywood, plants and sound – are selected for their qualities of materiality or immateriality, and display an intentional lack of finish.

Dwyer has been exhibiting internationally since 1982 and was selected for the MCA’s inaugural Primavera exhibition in 1992. Her recent solo exhibitions include the garden of half-life, University of Sydney Art Gallery, Sydney (2014); Goldene Bend’er, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2013); Drawing Down the Moon, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012); Costumes and Empty Sculptures, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2008); Moon Garden, Aratoi Museum, Masterton, New Zealand (2008); The Addition and Subtractions and The Hanging Garden, Kunstraum, Potsdam (2007); I Maybe We, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand (2005); and Art Lifts, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2002).

Group exhibitions include De Rerum Natura, Studio La Città, Verona (2014); Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); and a major site-specific installation on Cockatoo Island for The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, 17th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney (2010). Other group exhibitions include Almanac: The Gift of Ann Lewis AO, MCA, Sydney (2009); The Ecologies Project, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2008); Lost and Found: An Archaeology of the Present, TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville (2008); Mystic Truths, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand (2007); Den Haag Sculptuur 2007 De Overkant/Down Under, The Hague (2007); High Tide, CAC Vilnius and Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw (2006); Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2003); Contempora 5, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (1999); OrientATION, 4th International Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul (1995); and Australian Perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (1993).

Dwyer’s work is held in various public collections, including major state galleries and university collections in Australia, and Auckland City Gallery and Waikato Museum in New Zealand.

Learn more
– Other works by the artist

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