2nd October - 26th October
Marley Dawson

Marley Dawson

2 – 25 October 2008

Well there was a man who lived in a shed

Spent most of his days out of his head…

Nick Drake, ‘Man in a shed’, 1969

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire...Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), BBC radio broadcast, Feb 9, 1941

It is the inalienable right of all Australian men to have a shed – or so our fathers have told us. It is their special extra-territorial space, outside the bordered domestic zone in which they are duty-bound to toil as husbands, fathers, mowers-of-lawns, TV-aficionados. They need it, and it’s just for them. This, anyway is the myth perpetuated freely and seemingly escaping any PC reconstruction (surely there is and has been for decades a grey area stretching from shed to studio to office, an area broadly populated by both genders?).

But the myth remains, strong as a 2x4 frame: In the shed, Dad is King. Even if untrained in the Constructional Arts, he may use this space for shambling building projects, a secret pornography cache, towers of carefully stored empty petrol cans, boxes of the kids’ old schoolwork, and to house a punching bag from that abortive attempt to get fit, neatly coinciding with the first stream of Rocky movies. The shed is Terra Pater Familias.

In this exhibition, Marley Dawson has recreated, in situ, his father’s shed. In fact, the same shed his father is simultaneously building and working in as this exhibition opens. This is important: this is not a re-enactment. Re-enactment thrusts the fragments of our past into our present, to re-form experiences otherwise left to memory. This would be the case with the making of an old shed, full of cobwebbed eighties memories. Dawson’s work here is not so much a nostalgic process as an act of mirroring, a playing with time between the generations and between two coinciding events, played out in real time and separated by space and context.

By bringing the act of making the shed into the ‘white cube’ of the gallery, and then working inside it throughout the exhibition period to produce the beautiful improvised turned objects made from other symbols of masculinity (fence posts, goalposts), Dawson is reversing and then collapsing the shed-studio-gallery nexus – playing with time and space simultaneously.

As a body of work, Dawson’s art is about process of recreation and alteration, about the limitless ambition and the race against the clock to create oversize manifestations of his imagination and his will to make something appear. He has in previous work recreated a Penguin Race with house bricks, massively elevated a pool table, and built a special house designed entirely to be jumped out of, stuntman-like. After the shed, who knows what will be next. His art is at once of the mind and of the hand – in his process, we see a thrilling crossover between art and labour: the work is the work.