How can the hairs on your legs, under your arms, in your ears be beautiful? These are the things us humans try to control as “respectable” beings, plucking and grooming on a near daily basis to maintain our dignity. It is for this reason that we should all have Helani Laisk’s new exhibition Mammal at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka on our to-do list. Helani courageously exposes us to things we have never wanted to see before. The hidden and taboo of our everyday existence is uncovered before our eyes; shocking and confronting whilst simultaneously overwhelming us with unexpected beauty. Blood, flesh and organs; the essentials of our being become full blown sculptures and swelled up colourful drawings radiating beauty and celebrating the connection that our bodies have with the natural world. We are introduced to an unconventional attractiveness; not squeaky clean beautiful like a supermodel or new car but a grotesque appeal that goes deeper and resonates with our primitive consciousness. A real, breathing, kind of good looking.
Your nanna’s crocheting is reformed spilling from the wall in a phallic form. You stand back not wanting to get too close, yet, all at once the sensuous flesh and earthy tones of the hand-crocheted wool draw you back in and remind you that these formations and this layering are all very familiar to you. Old clothes are miles away from their everyday purpose as they take organic form and burst with fertility. We are no longer civilised beings but thrown back amongst the natural organisms that surround us. Come and grow as Helani takes you down the hollows and in amongst the grooves that we ourselves are often to scared to explore. You will not be disappointed instead rather in your element as you discover all that it really means to be a mammal.
Words by Isabelle Morgan