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A Laboratory of Art and Flesh

Human Becomings, created by Lex Randolph, is an intriguing new experience that gives you a taste of post-modern art and its recurrent themes of identity and gender.

BY Farzaneh Pishro

When I walked into Paper Mountain gallery, the first thing that grabbed my attention was several specimen jars with peculiar things inside them. Pieces of textile representing body parts were squeezed in glass jars, looking cold and lifeless, stored for examination. Inside the jars, there were obscure shapes, labeled with bizarre explanatory tags, such as “I am round like a circle” or “measure out my body (set of 4)”. Some quirky watercolour illustrations were stuck on the wall on the opposite side of most glass jars, channeling a different medium and artistic technique, yet retaining the theme of objectified body parts. Human Becomings, created by Lex Randolph, is an intriguing new experience and gives you a taste of post-modern art and its recurrent themes of identity and gender.

Lex Randolph is an emerging artist experimenting with watercolour, ink illustrations and textiles. In his first solo exhibition, Lex lures his audience to gaze upon issues of gender, sex and identity in a new light. Synchronised with a cold light coming from the windows of the gallery, Lex makes his audience look at body parts with an objective lens. As his choice of specimen jars indicates, he offers to dissect bodies and to scrutinise them as if they are subjects of an experiment. The gallery, therefore, is resonant with a laboratory, a place where artistic specimens are stored, to be examined and studied. What is more intriguing is that he invites us to engage in this experiment, to actually be able to touch the specimens and wonder what they really are.

Taking into account the number of phallic and yonic objects, Lex’s art demonstrates a great emphasis on sexuality and gender. There is also a sculpture made of textiles showing the middle of one’s body and their privates covered by a metal layer. The note beneath the sculpture reads: “None of your business”. In a way, this note suggests that Human Becomings rejects the idea of a fixed, and dictated sexuality. Does gender really matter? Aren’t our gender roles mere constructions by the society as Virginia Woolf once mused?

Instead of espousing a fixed perception of sexual identity, Human Becomings lays out the absurdity of gender in the obscure shapes of re-productive body parts formed by flesh-tone textiles. My take on the use of textiles is that there is also a link to fetishisation of fragmented body parts and the clothes associated to them. The word “love” and the picture of a heart are respectively stuck on the collar of a men’s shirt and on the sleeve on another shirt, displaying how our feelings and desires can be linked to textiles.

The artworks in Human Becomings display a dialogue between themselves. There is a clear representation of this dialogue in the printed photographs of some artworks, for instance The Detachable Breast, put into glass jars. This recreation of the items on display creates a sense of self-analysis in the context of the exhibition itself. By exhibiting artworks and their photos alongside them in specimen jars, Lex implies that you are welcome to examine and critique his artisitic pieces with the same scientific lense you have viewed the body parts with.

Lex Rendolph’s art is more engaging and more complicated than what it might seem in the first glance at the exhibition. It’s an art that challenges and questions preconceptions and fosters contemplation; especially about gender and identity.

The exhibition is still ongoing until the 26th of March, so if you enjoy post-modern art and are at all curious about the expressions of gender in fine arts, do not hesitate to visit the gallery. More information in here:

https://www.timeout.com/perth/things-to-do/human-becomings-lex-randolph

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