Reminiscent of a 16th century cabinet of curiosities, Nancy Fouts’ Un-think presents a collection of curios manufactured by the artist to throw our ingrained view of everyday things, especially those from nature, thoroughly off kilter.
Taking us back to a time when collectors would gather stuffed exotic birds, pictures of deformed people or strange foreign artifacts to delight at the freakish and strange, Fouts re-invokes a sense of the uncanny as she rolls out this plethora of whimsical and darkly humorous pieces. As the exhibition unfolds, it’s hard not to entertain a macabre, excited anticipation of what’s going to happen next.
This sense of uneasy expectancy is also imbued into the works themselves. When the blades of an electric fan are replaced with a stuffed bird, it’s hard not to imagine the carnage if the fan were to be turned on; the cute chick delicately perched on the mousetrap would have no chance. The beauty and functionality, as well as the downright creepiness, of dead butterfly wings provide the sails for a small model ship or, strikingly, the flights for a dart.
There are pieces with a delightfully slapstick sense of humour, like the dartboards made from iron or marble that would be at home in a Marx Bros films, or a violin bow with a mischievous knot in the middle. In Fouts’ world, the Madonna lugs her child home complete with two bags crammed with shopping from Safeways.
There is a sense of novelty about the objects when they’re collected en masse like this, but given due consideration each piece displays a clarity of thought and mastery of craft that is deceptively clean, simple, yet complex; after all, surrealists love a good juxtaposition.
-- Laura Bushell
(Images: Nancy Fouts, Butterfly Dart (2010), Antique dart, butterfly wings, presented in glass dome. 19 x 12 x 12 cm, Nancy Fouts, The Trip. Courtesy the artist and Pertwee Anderson & Gold)