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Out/About: Michelle Cawthorn ‘Birdland’

By In/Out
October 7, 2015


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There’s definitely something about our feathered friends that’s striking a cord with the contemporary artist in Australia at present. Artworks with birds have starred in many recent exhibitions including Guy Maestri’s ‘Great Divide’, Paul Ryan’s ‘Birds of Wollongong’, Stu James ‘Vignettes’ and it’s impossible not to acknowledge Leila Jeffreys’ irresistible photographs that articulate every micro-fibre of this beautiful creature’s plumage. Opening this week at M Contemporary is relative newcomer to the exhibiting scene Michelle Cawthorn with her show ‘Birdland’.

Cawthorn has wasted no time since completing her Master of Fine Art at the University of NSW earlier this year, with this impressive exhibition closely followed by another ‘Bittersweet’ at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery. Like the aforementioned artists, Cawthorn employs the bird (and other wondrous creature concoctions) as a vehicle to express something else. She explains that her primary motivation is communicating ideas of memory: “We all have an inner landscape, a private space inhabited by our thoughts and dreams, memories and emotions.” These recollections take shape in her works on paper in representational and non-representational forms.

There is an appealing strangeness in these forms; surrealist at heart. While Cawthorn constructs pictures that draw on the familiar, from her thoughts of the past, when transcribed to the page they take on a distinct life of their own. Elegantly interlacing tendrils float gracefully in ‘730 days’, a quizzical single eye surveys the scene in ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ and a curious bird leg emerges from beautifully rendered abstract shapes in ‘Banded’. Her meticulously hatched lines in these drawings, which she describes as meditative to make, allows the viewer to reflect on their own inner workings, be they memories, daydreams or imaginings.

Michelle Cawthorn ‘Birdland’
M Contemporary
37 Ocean Street
Woollahra, 2025 NSW
Monday: by appointment
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 – 5
Sunday: 10 – 4
3 – 31 October 2015

Michelle Cawthorn ‘Bittersweet’
Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Art Centre
782 Kingsway, Gymea NSW
Monday – Sunday: 10 – 5
17 October – 29 November 2015

Credits: Courtesy of the artist Michelle Cawthorn and M Contemporary
Words by Katrina Arent

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