“When Happiness Ruled” is showing at PICA, Northbridge from 12 November to 24 December.
Where to look first? Bright colours, whimsical shapes and an apparent tribute to all things glitter, “When Happiness Ruled” is completely enthralling. In styles reminiscent of decora Harajuku fashion and all thing sweet and pastel, Australian Tanya Schultz, the artist behind Pip & Pop, has created five large installations at PICA gallery in Northbridge. Visitors can patrol the “islands” on the ground level, which works best for identifying the smaller scenes and intricate details, but PICA’s overhanging balcony also offers a view to mirror the smaller paint splatters that decorate the floor. From above, the installation resembles a cluster of brightly coloured petri dishes, teeming with life.
Schultz draws on folklore and mythology to inspire these intricate constructions. 400 kilograms of coloured sugar, glitter, sequins and recycled items have gone into “When Happiness Ruled”. Forests of tiny beaded trees, plastic flowers and fluffy mushrooms grow along the islands. Delicately piped coloured sugar lines trace patterns across the ground. Crouching at eye-level to the scenes, it is easy to become fixated on small microenvironments. The installation requires multiple views to come to grips with everything that is going on within each piece.
Amongst the whimsy and vitality of the installation are moving and brightly lit individual items. This is a landscape that moves to its own rhythms, but there is perhaps also a slightly sombre edge. Fantastical “monsters”, made of pastel-daubed tinsel and foam, move in slow circles. Some of the squat foam mountains have plastic eyes, but others appear to have been gouged out, layered under cloudy pastels.There is a sense that a fairytale more in the style of Grimm is being played out in some of the tiny scenes.
The inherent fragility of the sugar-craft installations adds to this undercurrent of concern. Even the past tense of the title indicates that there is more going on beneath the surface. Recycled ceramic and plastic animals, fruit and vegetables are sudden, stark presences, hidden within the glittery sugar landscapes. These therefore become “found” items in two senses of the word, offering additional narratives of what is considered beautiful or valued.
Playful and highly visually attractive, “When Happiness Ruled” has proven to be a hit with adults and children alike. By looking closely at each layer, it is possible to see more wistful elements to Tanya Schultz’s creations, encoding quiet celebrations for recovered items in futuristic, unfamiliar, but welcoming environments.
For more information on“When Happiness Ruled” by Pip & Pop, please go to http://pica.org.au/show/when-happiness-ruled
– Siobhan Hodge
Siobhan Hodge has a doctorate from the University of Western Australia in English. Her thesis focused on Sappho’s legacy in English translations. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review, Reviews Editor for Writ Review, and contributing reviewer for Cordite. Born in the UK, she divides her time between Australia and Hong Kong. Her chapbook of reflections on Sappho, Picking Up the Pieces, was published in 2012 as part of the Wide Range Chapbooks series. She has also had poetry and criticism published in several places, including Westerly, Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.