If you wander into Perc Tucker Regional Gallery right now, you’ll find some curious creatures lurking in an alcove on the ground floor.
Part-human, part-animal these weird and whimsical characters come in all manner of shapes. Some with bulging heads and tiny eyes, others with crab claws or the lamp of an angler fish, and very few confined to the standard box frame you would typically find in galleries all over the world.
These are the creatures of Townsville artist Katya Venter and her latest exhibition, Curiouser and Curiouser.
Katya said her work had been inspired by many influences – her love of fairytales; dolls and toys; and an interest in how we see our own bodies and others’.
“We all live within the given body, some love their bodies, others not so much. One thing is certain though – that we all want to feel love and to belong,” said Katya.
“We might not feel beautiful or pretty inside, some people use expressions like “fat as a pig”, “I’m a bit rusty”, “snappy”, “wish I had extra hands” and so on, as though our bodies can be or should be augmented in technological and organic ways.”
Katya’s ‘hybrid babies’ explore what we might look like, should we receive the extra features we often so flippantly wish for.
“Wouldn’t we start looking different, hostile, even disgusting or odd? Would we still recognise our own [kind], and love and accept each other? I think we – the collective culture – would. I am very much a pacifist and believe in peace and compassion.”
The works in Curiouser and Curiouser include sketches in a range of sizes, many presented behind a brightly-coloured acrylic shape suspended before the image. The result is delightfully unsettling, with coloured shadows falling across the work and the warped acrylic partly obscuring the creatures behind it.
“I drew my inspiration from the anatomical drawings from Victorian era, images and devastating stories about the culture of Freak Shows that were popular until the 1960s, mythology, augmented and mixed reality developments and fairytales,” said Katya.
“we are changing our ways of seeing the world through the eyes of digital developments”
“Our lives have been in the hands of digital augmentation for a while now, slowly we are changing our ways of seeing the world through the eyes of digital developments. Perspectives change and some things appear distorted. Just like looking through my acrylic shapes – images on the other side change colour or get distorted.”
Perhaps rather obviously, Katya was also inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll and his stories of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, which she developed an enduring love for as a child.
“Carroll’s characters morph and change the world of this little girl, stretching and distorting her views, leaving her in very unsettled situations,” said Katya of Carroll’s work.
“The exhibitions title Curiouser and Curiouser came from the part of the book: ‘“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).‘ – is a tongue in cheek for me, as I am not a native English speaker, so very often I find myself making up words and phrases in English. This in another form of hybridity – linguistical and cultural, the expressions that come out of my mouth are sometimes nothing short of a human-tentacle-like hybrid.”
Find Katya Venter’s Curiouser and Curiouser at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery until 11 April 2021