The Pleasure of Your Company

12/11/2020 - 05/12/2020

Kate Bergin
The Pleasure of Your Company

2020

installation image



The Pleasure of Your Company

Kate Bergin “The Pleasure of Your Company”


When I attended the Victorian College of the Arts it was situated at the back of the National Gallery of Victoria so access to their vast collection was an easy but sometimes overwhelming experience. Standing in front of Tiepolo’s, “Cleopatra’s Banquet” is truly breathtaking every time as you contemplate its enormous scale and the dramatic moment when the Egyptian queen dissolves her priceless pearl earring in a glass of vinegar, drinks it and wins the wager for the most lavish feast against the Roman consul Mark Antony.

This transportation that art creates to another time and place continues to fascinate me and paying homage to this painting allows not only the retracing of the master’s brush and learning more about painting itself, it also offers a direct connection from now to 1744 when Tiepolo painted it and then further back to the winter of 41-40 BC in Alexandria where Antony and Cleopatra were inseparable companions.

Shakespeare also recreated these famous lovers in 1606 and helped them to grow into fictional characters where we follow their doomed love affair to its tragic end.

But they’re not the only famous couple in art history. Thomas Gainsborough presents “Mr & Mrs Andrews” in 1750 on their estate in Bulmer Tye, North Essex and again we are drawn into the complexity of human relationships. In Sister Wendy's Story of Painting (1997) The British art historian calls the painting “one of the great comic masterpieces” describing the dark stormy clouds as a sign of where the marriage is heading…” not a marriage made in heaven” and yet we are interested and as she says “this is the mark of a great portrait”.

It’s the unfinished portion of the painting that I find most intriguing and it was very tempting to imagine what should have been on Mrs Andrews’ lap and “finish” the painting but like so many situations it’s what left unsaid that speaks volumes and so it remains a mystery.

These two paintings “The Pleasure of Your Company” and “Visiting Mr & Mrs Andrews” also create a window to the outside from the domestic realm of the table top offering perhaps an escape or moment to dream of places beyond the everyday.

The animals, birds and objects give us a sense of dislocation as they are also outside of their usual habitats and are gathered in unlikely groups from all corners of the world. From the exotic snow leopard to the domestic dog and rabbit they sit seemingly comfortable together but the 1940’s film noir phone with its dial that reads “In case of emergency dial 170” suggests there may be an underlying menace and all may not be as calm as we think, not unlike our own domestic situations where all the squawking and distractions of everyday life threaten to unbalance us.

Travelling to various countries to find these extraordinary creatures has been an adventure in itself. Sitting with animals for hours watching their movements and the relationships they have within their own family groups, their different behaviours and personalities are also what I take back to the studio along with tens of thousands of photos! These experience with the birds and animals and the large reference library I can now use all add to the possibilities of the paintings and the connections that can be made between different creatures.

I hope you enjoy this exhibition and tracing your own journeys, experiences and memories through these paintings, travelling through time out of our present situation into the past and back to the future where we can once again enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. 

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Victoria, Australia, 3181
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