REVIEW Pragma: Perils and Passions – a lingering reflection on love that lasts a lifetime

DIANA McGIRR

Empty Promise, Silent Playground & Game Over silk, muslin, wool & hair felted and stitched onto armatures, variable sizes up to 290mm x 235mm x 200mm, 2017-2021, by Katrina Virgona. Photo Christophe Canato. 

Love is a splendid and enigmatic thing. Amorphous yet palpable. Intense, fickle, capricious, transitory, impulsive, tenacious. A paradox. Yet the human condition craves love, with all its complexities.
 
Conceived by psychotherapist and art consultant Mariyon Slany, Pragma: Perils and Passions is a poignant reflection upon the Greek notion of enduring love (pragma) – love based on long-term commitment that moves beyond popular notions of seductive romanticism (eros) and fleeting infatuation (ludus).
 
Supported by a grant from the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries, Slany’s intent was to present a multi-sensory exhibition about love and connection amidst the context of the Covid-19 pandemic when feelings of disconnection and existential self-reflection prevail.
 
Slany’s professional work as a relationship counsellor clearly underpins the theme of the exhibition. She suggests Lost Eden Creative in Dwellingup was the ideal setting for the show and a series of artist’s talks and workshops because its convivial and nurturing environment offers space where vital issues can be explored and discussed.
 
Thirteen artists and one writer responded to Slany’s over-arching theme, drawing on their own life experiences (affirmative and heart-felt), to create work in an array of media that reveals their long-term relationships with self and others.
 
She says the artists were chosen for their ‘textural’ approach and asked to focus on how we think and feel about the nature of enduring love.
 
Inevitably, given the emotive nature of this topic, deeply personal experiences shape the content and sentiment of the exhibition and individual interpretations of ‘pragma’ embrace other forms of love, described in the Greek language of love as self-love (philiautia), friendship (philia), unconditional (storge) and self-less (agápe) love.
 
Consequently, Pragma: Perils and Passions, co-curated by Lost Eden’s hard-working owner and resident artist Monique Tippett, is best appreciated as a collaborative venture featuring moving tributes to friends and lovers that induce memories and moments of self-reflection coupled with feelings of joy, ecstasy, apprehension, suspicion, sorrow and renewal.
 
Maxxi Minaxi May’s installation [Self] Love is a Battlefield exposes a lifetime of self-examination in a grid comprising seventy-two statements that contrast warmly-coloured affirmations with monochrome judgements. ‘Does this oscillation reflect a ceaseless struggle with self-esteem or vanity?’ she asks.
 
Fusing two portraits to create each single distorted image, Christophe Canato’s photographic portrait series Le Baiser distorts convention and challenges the judgement of others and on-going social discomfort with same-sex relationships.
 
The unconditional love of deep long-lasting friendship is clearly evident in Betsy Bush’s Love you to the Moon and back she wrote, and Binding, a collaboration between Anne Neil and Olga Cironis. This is love built on trust, respect and acceptance, where treasured memories are captured in threads and found objects, and shared through the process of stitching, which brings comfort in loss and reassurance in life.
 
Whilst the perils of loving and losing seem ever-present in this exhibition, there is solace in the warmth of memories and hope in the form of objects made to symbolise joy as well as trepidation.
 
Marcia Espinosa’s intricate, intriguing porcelain and stoneware objects The Vicissitudes of Love, Pragma and Give me Your Hand signify hope and happiness with tiny flowers, as well as disappointment and duty represented by shards of broken crockery and chains. Tania Spencer’s wire wedding outfits To have and to hold from this day forward also symbolise hope and happiness, inviting us to think about the value we place on marriage individually and collectively. Katrina Virgona’s collection of three miniature straight-jackets Empty Promise, Silent Playground and Game Over crafted in silk, muslin, wool and hair could represent restriction and restraint or a warm embrace.
 
If art invites us to ask questions and consider whether work is beautiful or thought-provoking, like love, it’s an emotional and intellectual endeavour requiring commitment from all parties.
 
And if Slany’s intent was to create a conversation about the value of enduring love – a moving tribute by Marian Pastor Roces to artist-musician Adrian Jones in the catalogue attests to this – perhaps a lasting legacy of Pragma: Perils and Passions is how it makes us think about our own relationships. Loves lost, love that lingers, and the latent possibility of love to come – the love that sustains us, in all its forms.
 
Pragma: Perils and Passions features artworks by Kelshe Ashe, Betsy Bush, Christophe Canato, Marcia Espinosa, Michele Eastwood, Eden Lennox, Guundie Kuchling, Maxxi Minaxi May, Lucille Martin, Anne Neil and Olga Cironis, Tania Spencer and Katrina Virgona and is on show at Lost Eden Creative, Dwellingup until 3pm 5 September 2021.

Love you to the moon and back she wrote velvet, felt, thread, dimensions 1050mm x 1750mm, 2021, by Betsy Bush. Photo Christophe Canato.

Le Baiser digital archival inkjet prints, 400mm x 300mm, Edition of 5, 2018-2020, by Christophe Canato. Image courtesy the artist. 

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