A World of Stability and Chaos: James Aksman-Glosz reviews ‘The Mobility of Happiness’ by Sara Oscar

The Mobility of Happiness by Sara Oscar Mop Projects 2/39 Abercrombie St
Chippendale NSW 24th June – 19th July 2015

For most people who are interested in contemporary art, particularly photography, there are certain expectations, fashionable trends that attempts to define the era that we are living in. Of late, there has been a long-lasting trend leaning towards aesthetics, the photograph of precisely constructed beauty, often contrasted by its mundane, everyday content. To be explained more simply, it is art that looks great, yet after seeing it you walk away with the feeling that you have experienced it all before. In Sara Oscar’s latest exhibition The Mobility of Happiness (2015), she avoids fashionable trends in favour of constructing a strange undiscovered world, kind of like a version of the minecraft videogame but for adults. An exhibition that presents us with a sandbox construction of photographic works with installation art, partly an archive of her Burmese Thai cultural history, incorporated into a scientific theory about genetic inheritance, which asks the question where does our spiritual and sexual instincts come from.

Sara Oscar, The Mobility of Happiness, 2015, installation view . Photograph courtesy of the artist
Sara Oscar, The Mobility of Happiness, 2015, installation view . Photograph courtesy of the artist

There are eight black and white photographic works in this exhibition of varying sizes some are large formal prints, while others are triptych prints in an architectural format. Most of the prints are of Burmese Thai women in ritual garb taking part in a nat pwe spirit possession ceremony. The nat pwe is a dramatic performance, a physical representation of Burmese mythology, and an effort to seek spiritual guidance by remembering the stories involving the nats (spirits). Super-imposed on a few of these photographs are floating semi-transparent shapes, faded turquoise or lavender in colour, culturally significant in relation to the colour’s symbolism supporting the work’s themes of the feminine, emotional equilibrium and metaphysical ambience.

Photography cleaves reality into such subtle segments, at 1/30th of a second, creating an asymmetrical perception of the world. Furthermore, its off-balance characteristics are amplified by the idea that photography doesn’t articulate an idea in the way painting does, as there isn’t a constancy of style or expression. The medium of photography is invisible to all of us; more so in the digital age that we are now living in, and this is why Sara Oscar’s inclusion of a more painterly quality to her work (appearing in the form of semi-transparent shapes) shifts the energy and tension within her photographic prints considerably. The diamond shape in one of her prints brings to mind Piet Mondrian’s ‘lozenge’ paintings, a more modern myth of spiritual advancement, and a scraping contrast with the quiet undercurrent of content about biological research, which becomes more noticeable when you view Sara Oscar’s The Mobility of Happiness not in isolation, but as an extension of a complex and intellectually dense oeuvre.

In Sara Oscar’s earlier exhibition Law of the Series (2012), she began overlaying semi-transparent diamond and circle shapes, in varying temperatures of colour, over found images or on top of a densely patterned background. The shapes appear to float and drift aimlessly, neither going anywhere or staying perfectly still, which provides a visual cue that these shapes actually represent cells, the building blocks of life, viewed under a microscope. They coincidently appear, splinter apart into multiple versions, or migrate into a totally different shape. Visual coincidences inspired by the research of the Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer (1880-1926) whose inquiry into inheritable traits focused on coincidence rather than shared traits passed on by the parent gene.

Sara Oscar, The Mobility of Happiness, 2015, installation view . Photograph courtesy of the artist
Sara Oscar, The Mobility of Happiness, 2015, installation view . Photograph courtesy of the artist

Coincidental traits in biology are expressed through the installation art elements present in The Mobility of Happiness. In this exhibition, there is a ladder made of copper leading nowhere (or to an ephemeral state of ascendancy), easily interpreted as a straightened DNA double helix, its structure reformed, less biological, a coincidental act, which makes room for inherited spirituality in our gene code. The spatial area of the exhibition space is treated like a minecraft style of open world, a world of stability and chaos. With a firmly erect plinth displaying traditional offerings to the spirits from Burmese mythology, conflicting against a clutter of objects such as a fallen copper stand, possibly to signify the falling pillar of history and ultimately a failing inheritance, a temporary collapse of rationality, leaving enough time for a happy accidental happening, a mobility of happiness.

– James Aksman-Glosz


James Aksman-Glosz is an arts writer and a practising artist whose work places emphasis on painting, drawing and printmedia. He holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Previously he studied at Kunstakadamie Düsseldorf. With further study at the Sydney Gallery School obtaining an Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts (printmaking), and at the NADC (Nepean Arts and Design Centre) obtaining a Diploma of Fine Arts (painting and printmaking). More recently he was the Master Printer for Matthys Gerber with the works being exhibited in Hot Art—Cold Market (2012), Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N), Sydney.

MOP Projects can be found at http://www.mop.org.au/

Sara Oscar can be found at http://saraoscar.com/


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