The five central sculptures (Leaves that Talk Dirty Making Curlies Stand Straight) are figurative abstractions, each singing one of five songs from The Apple Nun (Book of Hymns): tree-like, twisted instruments that take on the characteristics of a musical choir. They each have their own unique character and voice. Like Dr. Frankenstein, Papadopoulos creates the skeletons of the sculptures by dissecting furniture and medical equipment, bending, curling, gluing and welding the metal back together. The Leaves that Talk Dirty... are then wrapped in Papadopoulos’ own personal clothing. Like a tornado sweeping up its casualties, the artist saturates these bodies in meaning by blending object, material and text. And like bodies, the skeleton and bones find a counterpart in the furniture framework, with skin made of makeup-stained medical gauze. Sitting atop - or rather growing out of - the sculptures are small cartoonish birds whose eyes have been stolen from stuffed toys and whose beaks are constituted by gynaecological speculums. This detail is also a tribute to the spirit of gynaecologist, Gery Van Tendeloo, the former curator and driving force behind Liebaert Projects who passed away last year.
In one of the side rooms, we encounter Infertility Orchestra Cries in D-Minor. A small choir of organically shaped creatures congregate around a music stand holding the newspaper version of The Apple Nun (Book of Hymns). In another, the biblical theme of apple as a moniker of sin makes a reappearance in The Apple Tree, (Mary Magdalexxxi): a light-bathed sculpture sprouts from a janitor’s bucket, incorporating Hooters waitress pins, cheerleading pompoms, teen-age miniskirts and string-tied chicken bones. In the details, the hand-painted faces of a cast of fallen women morph into animals such as bobcats and long-beaked birds.
Next door, a ghostly couple, entitled Former Selves, recall some of the artist’s earlier anthropomorphic sculptures. Domestic objects and furniture frequently come to life in Papadopoulos’ practice, embodying the qualities and social situations in which the artist’s characters find themselves embroiled. The same inseverable tension that connects the Former Selves, is doubled in the work FF&BB (BoomBOOMWoom), where two lovers find themselves emotionally and materially entangled. A lyrical song sung by a young girl’s voice plays out of a broken telephone, setting the scene for a relationship shifting between symbiosis and parasitism.
The editions at the entrance were given the title Hardest Harvest. A head-less chicken, duck or turkey - or “churduckens,” as the artist refers to them. Here, Papadopoulos has looked back to her childhood favourites, including Jim Henson, Tim Burton and family traditions such as Thanksgiving Day. The artist associates these familiar rituals with the autumnal holidays and an appreciation of their grotesque reciprocal carnivalesque manifestations. The editions are displayed on gas station shelving and presented as we would encounter them at a carnival fair stall where visitors shoot at figurines to win their prize. Hardest Harvest acts as the exhibition’s miniature mascot and usually a mascot has connotations of being rather ridiculous, running around like a headless chicken, perhaps again playfully commenting on the allegory of the fall of Adam and Eve. Like sitting ducks to the evil snake unable to see his tricks, ultimately leading them to become self-conscious beings (unlike any other animal) who therefore gain subjectivity through their messy lives full of both tumultuous conflict and deep joy and awakening.
Courtesy of Liebaert Projects, Emalin & the artist
Photography by Alexandra Colmenares