Submitted Review

'Collection Leads: Kate Beynon – kindred spirits'

  • Geelong Gallery • Geelong

  • 28 February—23 May 2020

  • Marielle Soni • Published 05 April 2020

In 2016 Kate Beynon’s work ‘Graveyard scene/the beauty & sadness of bones’ won the Geelong contemporary art prize, becoming a part of the Geelong Gallery collection & now the nexus of this exhibition ‘Collection Leads: Kate Beynon – kindred spirits’ curated by Lisa Sullivan.

The Myer Gallery is a relatively small, bright space, open-ended rectangular format with white & pastel green walls. Showcased within is a collection of small framed watercolours on paper, clean-edged plane surfaced canvases & curious soft sculpture mobiles suspended from the ceiling. A series of pop-art palette paintings & objects sparkling like heated jewels.

Seemingly illustrative, many literally are. The cardinal work is from ‘An-Li: A Chinese Ghost Tale’, a publication & series of paintings commissioned by Art & Australia, which retells a mythological love story traversing realms. They were exhibited together at Tarrawarra in 2015. They’re not all reunited here in Geelong, thankfully, that would be too simplistic. The semi-reunion is enriched by later works including dancing spirit figures, a shamanic robe, self-portrait with amulets, recurring motifs of floating eyes, hands, skulls, human organs. Beynon explores delicate areas our fragile egos often cast aside: the power of death, explorations of alternate worlds that love & hope create, death as a passage.

I would wear the ‘Robe for the Blue Shaman Guardian’ not knowing if it was blasphemous to do so, with its unblinking eyes, fleshy rays of blues & greens. A soft sculpture garment. A would-be warrior’s armour offering the protection of Mother Nature in her multitudinous forms. I recognise that relief of surrendering to the mysterious, things far greater than ourselves.

Oft referred to as Manga-like, Beynon’s characters live on the picture plane in the tradition of cartoon, but the plane acts as a thin veil into rich mythologies of histories that go so far back as to be no longer multi-cultural but one, offering talismans, charms, healing comforts of benevolent gods we can’t ever be sure exist.