October 14 – 22
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The domestication of plants and animals involves a mutualistic relationship of control and care. There is an ambiguity to the power dynamics of domestication, owing to the reciprocal nature of the ecological interaction that takes place — where one species controls the fitness of another to gain resources.
It remains unclear whether domestication is a conscious or unconscious process. Is it only natural, or cunningly intentional? There is a tension inherent in practices of domestication, where empathy shifts to exploitation, where wholesome work becomes a specialised apparatus of control.
“Coercion Cradle” evokes contemplation about human dominion over the natural world, and about the interplay between human-nature and the built environment.
Utilising the technical and material language of industrial manufacturing, the installation of new sculptures by Jennifer Mathews references architectures of control, coercive design, and the symbolic order and dis-order of geometry.
Re-connecting the standing concrete pillars of the Refractor-ruin is a large ‘cattle-crush’. In livestock farming the purpose of a cattle-crush is to hold the animal ‘stock-still’ for the protection of both man and beast. It is a highly engineered apparatus of care, emphasising the empathy that is required for the optimised extraction of value from non-human beings.
On the walls is a series of five aluminium star sculptures. The star is an easily recognisable symbol of achievement, aspiration and encouragement — ‘reach for the stars!’ But these stars are awkwardly drawn, potted with holes, ‘Swiss-cheese craters’ from Mars to be exact. Mathews chooses the most obvious formal references, then complicates them by layering even more interpretative possibilities.
These sculptures are both cute and sinister, shiny but dangerous with the capacity for violence. They embody the tension with ‘domestication’ — a forceful manipulation that is justified upon self-preservation and human survival.
“Coercion Cradle” weighs up the semiotic strength of various forms, be they architectural or purely symbolic, testing their capacity for containing different material histories, or delivering different kinds of meaning.
Jennifer Mathews is a sculpture and installation artist working across metalwork, digital collage and light. Her critical visual language merges industrial built space with natural symbolism. Through a considered technical approach to materials, alongside a playful method of assembling found imagery, the work addresses the complexities of living at a time where excessive consumption and resource scarcity coexist. By juxtaposing everyday food elements with steel and architectural motifs, Jennifer's work evokes contemplation about the interplay between nature and the built environment, about human dominion over the non-human world.
Jennifer is currently based at ACE, Adelaide, where she was awarded a 12-month studio residency in 2023. She holds First Class Honours in Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, alongside a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the University of South Australia, where she was awarded the Constance Gordon-Johnson Sculpture and Installation Prize (2015). Recent solo exhibitions include Staple at Laila, Sydney (2023), The sun ceases to give without receiving, Kings Artist-Run, Melbourne (2022) and Humble, Disneyland Paris, Melbourne (2020). Recent group exhibitions include whole fish, FELTspace, Adelaide (2023), System Blower, MILK Gallery, Melbourne (2022), Extreme Mating of a Pugnacious Dreamer, TCB Gallery, Melbourne (2022) and donut king (paintings about love), Suite 7A, Sydney (2022).
This project has been assisted by Arts South Australia