Lottie Consalvo’s work is often discussed in terms of what it is – a collection of paintings, a work of performance, a body of sculptures – but since the beginning, her entire artistic practice has been a series of explorations into how to make the psychological, material. Ideas of time, memory and artefact are consistent tropes, woven together with an innate understanding of performance as both a physical gesture – painterly or otherwise – and as a material in and of itself to be employed in the documentation of experience.
Understanding Consalvo’s work as a series of psychological performances and not merely manipulations of paint or clay or plaster – is central to understanding both the artist herself and this particular body of work.
For Consalvo, the works in this exhibition are in fact documentations of internal performances – both hers and others – recalling and re-enacting memories and encounters that have been quietly profound, both personally and artistically.
Consalvo has never sought to make painting through performance – these are not action paintings or the remnants of gestures – they are documents of moments in time and a series of conscious, psychological investigations into the ways the mind and body shift when you meditate on or step into memory.
The photo series Gestures captures Consalvo reliving and recreating elements of her past, distilling each particular moment into a form of gesture, or physical memory. The photographs were taken during Consalvo’s residency as part of Kaldor Public Art Project 30 – Marina Abramović: In Residence in 2015. In the aftermath of that experience, Consalvo
found herself thinking increasingly about how physical spaces can be altered simply by how we hold ourselves within them psychologically.
And so in this exhibition, memory becomes a physical space as Consalvo attempts to relieve herself of the responsibility to remember by transforming or performing her memories into tangible objects.
The large-scale paintings Deep In Your Remembering and Until My Forgetting are documentations of Consalvo’s process of remembering a hug she dreamed of from the ghost of someone close to her – of trying to return that impossible embrace. In both works, the scale and installation are designed to overwhelm you – their scale and enclosure a measure of the desperation of trying to hold on to an evanescent moment that may never have actually happened; their large black shapes a gestural grab for something out of reach.
Made from plaster and fire-hewn, the fleshly, writhing sculpture The Hug was shaped by Consalvo’s own embrace – it’s solid form quietly, desperately undermined by its hollowness; it’s loneliness reiterated by its isolation. Again the spectral figure of the ghost and Consalvo’s attempts to re-remember her encounter with it are made achingly
In Final Remembering (Books, The Birds, Robin, Home, Mother’s House) the memories of a loved one, now largely lost to dementia, are captured in clay and then memorialised in bronze. Consalvo sat with her friend, now in an aged care home, and shared photos of things once special to her while she instinctively manipulated the clay Consalvo gave her.
These particular works, again documentations of an action, are Consalvo’s attempts to understand the role of memory as a bridge between presence and absence. What becomes of our spirit when we forget ourselves? Where do our memories go – do they disperse like energy? What remains of us when they leave?
In meditating on memory – its slipperiness and mutability – in such a way, and in performing her own memories into something tangible, Consalvo challenges us to account for our own remembering and the rituals we attach to this attendance.