Penelope Cain presents her first solo exhibition at Artereal Gallery, Profiteer Chic, which explores narratives of historic colonialism, as seen in the British ‘settlement’ of Australia, with its hierarchies of power, control of trade, assumptions of ownership and abuse of authority, to contemporary acts of economic colonialism undertaken by global corporations, in particular those operating within Australia.
Profiteer Chic takes as its starting point a single small painting by a nineteenth century Sydney based former convict and amateur artist, George Peacock. The painting looks along Sydney Harbour from Garden Island, towards the emerging city. The possibly self-taught artist was a middleclass English convict; a lawyer transported for the white collar crime of document forgery, which he undertook to fund the appearance of success in his community. This small painting is reflected in all the works in the show.
When undertaking research for Profiteer Chic, Penelope Cain was drawn to this small painting because it appeared to bracket the marks of colonialism, economy and trade, between the ships, soldiers and emerging city of Sydney. This single image allowed Cain to negotiate thoughts on the contemporary manifestations of these concerns, through the history of Australian colonisation, and to incorporate her ongoing interest in notions of the landscape sublime/ anti-sublime, power and money, alongside an increasing interest in the politics of urban space.
For the last two years Penelope Cain has been using the technique of referencing, reflecting and collaging historic landscapes combined with flyscreen mesh and feathers to pivot towards her ongoing interest in the built urban landscape, notions of ‘the city’ and the nodes of economic and spatial power that occur in the city and urban environment. Cain says she see these works as both tests of the power paradigm and small acts of critical resistance. “In Profiteer Chic I was especially interested in mapping the territory between historic colonialism, as seen in the British ‘settlement’ of Australia, with it’s hierarchies of power, control of trade, assumptions of ownership and abuse of authority, to contemporary acts of economic colonialism undertaken by global corporations, in particular those operating within Australia. The title of the exhibition is a tongue-in-cheek riff on this line that I have tried to attenuate through the show, with the use of slightly tacky feathers, mini-discoballs and glitter”.
This series of works is an extension from a body of work undertaken from 2016 which included Upsell (included in View, Artereal Gallery curated by Barbara Dowse and acquired by Artbank) and Yield (Proposition for a Panorama Towards the Northern Top), a finalist in the Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of NSW, and Peak, a current finalist in the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award (until mid July).