|National Business Review July 3 1998
Phantoms, fantasies haunt Siddell works
A Rich Life by Sylvia Siddell at the ArtisGallery in Auckland from June 23-July 10
Reviewed by John Daly Peoples
One of Sylvia Siddell's paintings in her Artis exhibition could be an illustration for Sleeping Beauty. Sewing depicts a woman at her manic sewing machine. The malevolent machine is ready to prick fingers and create pandemonium with fabrics, ribbons and strings of pearls.
In most Sylvia Siddell works we encounter a private world of fantasies and phantoms.
In her domestic drawings and paintings the organic and inorganic alike are imbued with a unique life, both symbolic and dreamlike.
These visions create a sense of universal fears.
Paintings like Sewing also illustrate Siddell's interest in other artists and other periods. The work is suffused with light as in a Vermeer painting.
Interestingly, Vermeer also displayed interest in domestic affairs.
Hidden Histories has stage connections. In it, voluminous drapery is just being raised (or lowered) exposing (or concealing) a group of symbolic
objects which appear in several of the paintings.
These include a perfume/poison bottle, a fish, scissors, keys and entwined red ribbons and strings of pearls.
The pearls, images of sophistication, purity and even the divine word, are enmeshed like prayer beads with the menstrual red ribbon of life.
The ribbon is a bit like Wonder Woman's special cord, used to disable and bring order.
There are hidden stories and meanings in all Siddell works and finding them and interpreting them is delightful.
They all revolve around the common themes of birth, sex, death and the torments associated with the transitions between.
Her imagery is personal and traditional, drawing on Christian, pagan, European and New Zealand histories and myths.
It is the combination which gives a surreal and unsettling quality to the paintings
Desire features all her symbolic objects with some tamarillos, one with a vulval slash and another spurting fruit and seeds.
The fish, often considered symbolic of Christ spouts pearls.
In Shards, the goblet is cracked and there is a sense of danger and uncertainty. The ribbons and pearls lament but in Tears of the Moon with its fountain of youth or purity, the ribbons and pearls are celebratory.
The Rich Life Siddell creates is a fertile story which brings together elements of our life to plait into a continually evolving tapestry.
The malevolent machine is ready to prick fingers and create pandemonium.