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A peculiar bunch of gallery creatures

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Knob — a seven-foot high, nine-footed beast topped with an enormous bulbous mass covered in fine, fine hair. That bulging black knob caps firmly nine long, transparent legs, washed in delicate veils of blue-black ink, as finely drawn and sure, and elegant, as a line by Donald Friend.

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It is strange, it is amazing, it is the astonishing weird, harnessed by Heather B Swann. Heather, a dear friend, is part of a group show currently in Richmond and her contributions are outrageous.

The gallery’s centrepiece is a most peculiar bunch of creatures rising from the floor. It’s best you meet them yourself:

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It’s called Boys and Girls. They’re made of wood, resin, glass, ink and boot polish(!). They’re 135 centimetres high, about four and a half feet.

Step closer:

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Diana punishes Actaeon, transforming him into a stag, Gaia frustrates Apollo by turning Daphne into a laurel tree. And then there are Heather Swann’s Boys and Girls …

Heather exercises all the shades of black. Sometimes, the black is so deep it’s like the door to night. That tone beyond colour when everything seems possible — it is the black beyond the gates of sleep. The black of an iris, expanding vast to swallow you.

It is like nigredo, when alchemical elements are cooked down and cleansed to the darkest of black matter before its transformation. This is the black of Giraffe:

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Giraffe, 2010, bronze, 70 by 20 by 35 cm. What is happening here, what is it? Two sets of delicate legs, quietly leaning into each other — then jutting up into a writhing heavy mass of liquidly gleaming metal. It suggests … tender violence. Maybe. It is strange. But I think we can just about project into the bodily twists and turns in that … that fist, that body glove, the shoving, the groping…

The details: Until December 11, 2010 at the Karen Woodbury Gallery, 4 Albert St, Richmond. Wednesday-Saturday 11-5.

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