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Imaginary Monsters | Julia Campisi

Imaginary Monsters | Julia Campisi

April 16 — May 16

Imaginary Monsters continues Julia Campisi’s exploration into the popular perceptions of femininity, threading the strangely obvious codes and symbols.

April 16 — May 16, 2021

View the exhibition catalogue here

“Without looking further into the strange and fantastic catalogue of imaginary monsters, one must recognize that it is a matter of great interest to trace the origin of these marvellous creations of human fancy, and how they have first of all been brought into pictorial existence, and then variously modified and finally stereotyped and maintained by tradition and art.” 
—Sir Ray Lancaster, Essays of a Naturalist 

Imaginary Monsters
continues Julia Campisi’s exploration into the popular perceptions of femininity, threading the strangely obvious codes and symbols.

In this body of work, Campisi collages complicated sexualized images into vases, which she then reinterprets as sculpture. Her works absorb an ultra-feminine aesthetic and she draws on the symbolism of the decorative vase to tell coded stories in a contemporary way. She presents the viewer with a seemingly simplistic still-life that has a child-like sincerity. However, with no sense of space, these works are allowed to exist ubiquitously in an unquestioned reality, like the objects and animals which she is referencing. 

The collages exist as mere traces of their previous life. Campisi meticulously cuts photographs into lace-like drawings, reducing them to their colour form. She does this as a way to evoke the visual language (codes) that are constantly present in our reading of femininity. She is quite aware that the clichés she has reconfigured into existence hold no truth in their assertions, yet, are still valued in our patriarchal fantasies. As a result, the works question the idleness and symbolic messaging found in our cultural milieu, that goes beyond typical ideation into something less contrived. 
 In the piece Object Garden, Campisi uses sculptures as a method to record the overlooked details that inform our reading of femininity. The sculptures are by-products—corporal stand-ins for the female form. The absence of a complete figure allows each object of the garden to read as a fragment of a whole. The sculptural motif adds to the development of a narrative to remind the viewer of what’s missing. For the hand sculpture, Campisi re-performs the gestures found in the appropriated images of her collages. The gestures feel contrived and unnatural but resolve themselves in the molds to become fluid, dreamlike and sensual. The piece becomes frozen in time, interweaving past histories and absorbing the contemporary gaze that prompts a fundamental rethinking, not merely as a set of objects coming together, but as the human decisions and the social clichés that inform them.
Campisi’s interests and curiosities in how ideas about femininity are memorialized into objects have led her to combine past histories and present symbols. She taps into their visual associations to produce symbols of power and individuality that break-free from centuries of patriarchal fantasies. Her ultra-feminine aesthetic reveals the symbolism through whimsey narrative, giving the works a certain charm and coyness that isn’t easy to look away from.