15 May 2003

Artworks selected based on artists star signs, by Mystic Medusa, columnist
for 'The Australian' and the post-modern voice for astrology
Opening Launch: Thursday, May 15th, 2003, 6-8pm.
Exhibition dates: May 15 - June 8, 2003     
ARIES: John Kelly, TAURUS: Michelle Hiscock, GEMINI: Ian Smith, CANCER: Jennifer Mills,   LEO: Wilma Tabacco,
VIRGO: Eldred Wisdom, LIBRA: Angela Brennan, SCORPIO: Julia Ciccarone, SAGITARIUS: Axel  Feron,
CAPRICORN: Terry Batt, AQUARIUS: Michelle Nikou, PISCES: James Morrison
(see below for comments about each artist)
To communicate with mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with acids, or dissect
The recurrent images into pre-conscious terrors –
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press…
T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets, The Dry Salvages, V.
Astrology has seen better days, and worse. Once considered a science, it had the ear of monarchs, potentates, and wealthy merchants. No court without a resident astrologer, no weighty decision sans a consultation with the stars. Astrology has always had its enemies – Francis Bacon, Leibniz, Voltaire, etc., but these were balanced by a legion of supporters. Among its adherents were scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Tycho Brahe. Even Sir Isaac Newton has been claimed by the astrologers, but there is little evidence one way or another.
Nowadays astrology has lost much of its former status but gathered ever-larger audiences and more vehement critics. This is the verdict of the Australian skeptics, as posted on their web page: “Astrology: it’s a bit of fun, it’s decorative but it’s foolish to take it seriously.” To T.W.Adorno, whose book, The Stars Down to Earth, presents a systematic analysis of the astrology column from the Los Angeles Times, astrology was a more serious matter. Readers would begin by treating the astrology column as a bit of fun, but would find themselves taking it more and more seriously. To Adorno, this was akin to the way audiences would initially treat fascist demagogues as clowns and entertainers, only to gradually succumb to their extremist point-of-view.
Yet the link between astrology and political extremism is not quite so tidy. Louis MacNeice claims that in July 1941, the Nazis locked up all astrologers in Germany, “because their activities were considered unsuitable (if not subversive)”.
Hang on, what was that word again? Subversive? This is surely the Number One, favourite word in the lexicon of contemporary art. There is no higher aspiration for today’s upwardly-mobile artist than to be seen as “subversive”. In fact, if you’re not conspicuously subversive, there’s an awful possibility that you might be “conservative” – in which case, you may as well give up your dreams of the MCA survey and start painting gum trees.
Astrology has a greater hold on the public imagination than contemporary art, but many artists – even the silliest ones – would consider their activities to be far more ‘serious’ than those of the astrologer. This may be encouraged by the insipid tone of so many popular astrologers, who subscribe to the ingratiating  “Gentle Reader..” school of prose. Not so with Mystic Medusa, whose regular columns in the Weekend Australian’s colour magazine have won her a huge and diverse following. Mystic is an astrologer for our times: a post-post modern voice for an ancient and esoteric artform, who jolts and startles her readers out of their complacency; a writer who is consistently ‘in your face’, not crooning and whispering in one’s ear. Among astrologers, Mystic Medusa is a highly subversive force.
And so, in this exhibition, two worlds collide. Contemporary astrologer turns her attention to contemporary art, selecting a dozen artists – one from each sign of the Zodiac - and interpreting their work via their distinctive personality traits. It is up the viewer, whether sceptic or devotee, to see how well the description matches the artist; how precisely the astrological tendencies are played out in the work. To put these succinct and incisive analyses alongside the lugubrious explanations of the art professionals - the critics and curators - is to throw many common preconceptions out the window. While astrology may not be a legitimate or accepted version of art criticism, there is no doubt that art commentary is often a form of mysticism.
John McDonald, May 2003
Here's what Mystic had to say about each of the artists...
ARIES - John Kelly
The Big Logo, 2003
Rusted laser-cut steel, 90 x 120 cm
Courtesy of Niagara Galleries
The astro-motto for Aries is just "I Am". Not the Cartesian ergo which would involve proving you can do something such as thinking. Just being gloriously Ramzilla = Greatness. Even a centipede can think. Aries IS Aries. Aries is perfectly happy to 'bite the hand' which could feed - it's a point of principle.  They subvert dominant paradigms out of pride, not rebellion. Arians are often accused of being selfish and they ARE: SELF-ish...and thus organically original.  Aries is engaged in a sophisticated form of Psy-Ops against conformity: Brave-hearted and quixotic, their art tilts at windmills.
TAURUS - Michelle Hiscock
Rushcutters Bay 1, 2002, Oil on board, 16 x 13 cm
All works courtesy of Australian Galleries
Our Cow is bucolic. The Bovine paradigm = Sublime landscapes. The grass is greener where-ever they are. Taureans are grounded Earth Angels. Sans gimmicks, they care little for Po-Mo irony. Who needs doubts when one is SO adequate? The Taurean pic of Sydney Harbour is recognisable as Sydney Harbour - why would it not be? Dismissed lovers complain that Taurus IS Still Life In Motion - yes they're obstinate but 'so what?'  says the Cow - the Taurean reality is complete in itself. It IS the installation & anyone who feels otherwise is insensitive to sensual nuance.
GEMINI - Ian Smith
Commercial Coast, 1984
Oil on canvas, 164 x 242 cm
Courtesy of Ray Hughes Gallery
All activity and no movement? Such is one description of Ian Smith's work, yet it is also an apt depiction of Our Gemini. This lot are perpetual Poetry In Motion, but this poem is scrawled in an as-yet uninvented language. Someone needs to unearth a post-millennial version of the Rosetta Stone, one that would allow everyone to crack the Gemini code. Duality is one clue. Born under the Sign of the Twins and ruled by trickster Mercury - divine conperson of the Gods - Gems cannot exist on one plane alone. Pin one down? You'd be left with a suddenly unfashionable chrysalis, shrugged off in a hurry so that Gemini could flit away, free from convention, free of the binds, free of. You.
CANCER - Jennifer Mills
Fuzzy Felt, 1997
Felt and carpet, 200 x 400 cm
Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery
Ruled by La Luna, Crab-People and their Art cannot help but nurture. In some way, it evokes childhood and its so-called innocence - certainly not lost but Thwarted, still in need of an outlet. Extreme memorabilia is one expression of the Cancerian paradigm. Inner Child? Trite perhaps, but an archetype nonetheless worn on the Crabby sleeve. The medium of Fuzzy Felt evokes not only nostalgia - the performance art of all Crab People - but extreme comfort and the 'See Jane Run' clarity proffered to toddlers. Yet off to one side lie as-yet unplaced F.F figures, ready to complicate the clear, clean arc of kid-ult transcendence. Will the Felt child (Crab) use them?
LEO - Wilma Tabacco
Bliss Bomb no. 1, 2002
Oil on linen, 108 x 172 cm
Courtesy of Niagara Galleries
Leos rule. Their astro-motto is 'I Rule' - their Sponsor 'planet' is the Sun and in the Leo's own solar system, everything revolves around them. Astrologically, they are forever 'teen' & the art of Neo-Leos is similarly 'rad'. The eye is first drawn to the work's archetypal quality of cool. Society itself frames the innate creativity of our Leo, the sign most likely to be famous. Scared of the mere concept 'Square', Leo cares about the 'frame' within which they or their work is cast. And yet, their internal radar guides them always toward the light, where they get to bask in the heat, a jet stream of appreciation and official Recognition.
VIRGO - Eldred Wisdom
Untitled, 2002, installation, paint on torn paper,
dimensions  variable
All works courtesy of Stella Downer Fine Art
Virgoans think God, Goddess and Genius are in the Details. Rejecting unsuitable shit others would happily show, the Virgo Artiste is a cyclone of fuss and guilting, using his/her advanced sensibilities as a tool against Chaos Theory. In the Virgo mind, it is still ONLY A THEORY, at the very least a teensy five percent of existence that is controllable. Akin to architects or fantasy liposuctionists, Virgos take The Mess and Make Order. Their astro-motto: 'I Analyze'. Their Art is often concerned with the minutiae of existence and exact placement, almost daring the onlooker to unpick ...What? The Multi-Verse?
LIBRA - Angela Brennan
Diamonds, 2003,
Oil on linen, 107.5  x 88  cm
Courtesy of Niagara Galleries
Ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love & Beauty, Libran Luvvies are the natural aesthetes of the Art Zodiac. Beauty and the invoking of aesthetic Must-Have Thing-Lust is paramount. This is the Beautiful Person Star Sign and the Entity least likely to fling guts around a gallery to create some statement re Haruspexy. Think more Seduction, Allure and Enchantment in ancient context as potent spells. Love is the only emotion to count in the forever aesthetic Libra-Fleur mind. Libran Art evokes the emotion of edible lipstick, candy worth exhibiting. As Libran Oscar Wilde mentioned, "Beauty Is A Form Of Genius."
SCORPIO - Julia Ciccarone
Patricia Piccinini, 2003
Oil on linen, 107 x 213.5 cm
Courtesy of Niagara Galleries
Shock & Awe is their stock in genius. Sex & Gore if the $$$ fit seals the deal. Think transfixing but irking, like the Scorp him/herself. Witches in sheep's clothing, they are subtle subverters, secret kink artistes. An engagement with la Scorp is mythic in nature: more is afoot than one at first understands, a simple request may in fact be an invitation to The Quest. They and their Creations are ruled by Pluto, Lord of the Underworld and planet-wise, the cosmic archetype of transformation via non-stop merde. Scorp Art sucks you into THEIR fantasy du jour, THEIR personal dreamscape - but eek (!), doesn't it look familiar?
To the Constellation of the Compass: Pyxis, 1995, Acrylic on Paper, 90 X 65 cm, Courtesy of the artist, To the Constellation of the Altar: Ara V, 1997
Pencil and Acrylic on Paper, 90 X 65 cm, Private Collection
To the constellation of the Furnace: Fornax V, 1996, Pencil and pastel on paper, 90 X 65 cm, Courtesy of the artist
The Saggo astro-motto is 'I Seek' and wow, do they seek! Philosophers, stargazers and ranters, they search above, they peer below. Wanting to know how It works. But the quest is not the Virgoan analysis-fest, Saggos demand nothing less than Answers. So a Sagg wonks out even more than usual and depicts the Constellations. The response from the Multiverse remains a shrug: A great big 'So?'  Or is it? Maybe the cosmos rewards such audacity - Gaze at this work long enough and experience your own Eureka (!) moment. Because Saggos don't just 'paint' something - they ARE it. They are in a non-stop collaboration with the Cosmos.
CAPRICORN - Terry Batt
Next Year's Model, 2001, Oil on linen, 42 x 61 cm,
Courtesy of Niagara Galleries
Astro-typically, Capricorns are fascinated & haunted by their concept of status. And when you realise that Caps write most of the worldly rules of Where You Are and Where You Are Going, this is a necessarily powerful piece. The anonymous and opulent limousines intimidating the voluptuous figure on the back of the vulnerable motorbike?! Hello! It's like an arm-wrestle between a Goat Fantasy & Dystopia. And where is the Capricorn in this dangerous manoeuvre? On the bike, quite likely. The Goat totem is no mistake for Canny Caps - they are among the most sure-hoofed of the zodiac's signs. The mistake is to think that Caps abhor risk. They love it. If it makes them as glamorous as the bike couple.
AQUARIUS - Michelle Nikou
Untitled, 2002
Found objects wrapped in Fabric, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Darren Knight Gallery
Aquarians see Art as a medium via which they can fuck with someone's mind. Like they can't over cocktails. Lovers of humanity, they dislike actual people. Their Art says 'you figure it out, prole'. Their works, concepts and even Hair tend to be Ahead of Time; Anyone's time. Aqua-Maddies are the ones most likely to turn la vie en Aquarius into a challenging art form: taking over entire blocks of time/cityscape/Unrequited devotees' energies to produce stream of consciousness shit. Existing quite chirpily in a parallel world of abstraction and techgnosis, they are the Shamans of being always right.  Some time.
PISCES - James Morrison
Ship Wrecked, 2000, Oil on canvas, 213 x 213 cm,
Private collection
Patricia, 2000, Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Courtesy of Darren Knight  Gallery
Pisceans are pleasure-promising and enigmatic Everything-teasers. Ruled by Neptune - planet of Art, Film, Drugs, Ghosts, Transcendence, Dream Encounters With Celebrities, Lucid Day Jobs and the Lottery - they hover around the Nexus between Mega-shallow and Tres Deep Immersion in the Collective Subconscious. They can't even tell them apart and take Amorphic Resonance personally. Surreal in dream evocation, Piscean Art provides an instant Mabarosi moment by dint of using a meme medium (eg; a style that wakens retro-nostalgic appreciation perhaps) which then segues into bizarre (mostly unaccessed said Fish-Genius Einstein) brain realms to produce hitherto unrealised insights that feel definitively deja-vu.
Mystic Medusa, May 2003
For more information on Mystic, visit her website
Articles on line about Mystic Medusa on Art:
Sydney Morning Herald, Magical Mystic Tour 31 May, 2003
Mystic Medusa on The Spirit of Things, Radio National, ABC Radio
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