From December 1 until March 24, Penrith Regional Gallery in collaboration with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is providing audiences with a unique insight into Australian notions of home over the past century. Entitled The Ideal Home, the exhibition and public program will explore domestic architecture, design and technology, as well as facets of contemporary Australian society which are inextricable from the intimate, including domestic violence, homelessness, housing affordability and the notion of Australia as a refuge.
Taking place across the entire Penrith Regional Gallery, along with a satellite exhibition of modernist art and design at the Powerhouse Museum, the exhibition will feature artwork from the likes of artists Catherine O’Donnell, eX de Medici, Blake Griffiths, Richard Goodwin, Karla Dickens, Eliza Gosse, Cope Street Collective and Victoria Garcia. The incorporation of around 70 objects from MAAS’ collection of post-war furniture, household appliances, architectural models, interior design and everyday domestic objects will supplement the exhibit at Penrith Regional Gallery.
Seeking to expand the discourse on domestic violence from individualistic discussions to engagements with social structures, multimedia artist and tattooist eX de Medici focuses on the attitudes and mechanisms which propagate domestic violence, stating “there has always been an asymmetry between the genders in terms of physical prowess, and ultimately this is the way they’ve always controlled those perceived as weaker – with knuckle power.”
Citing a recurring tattoo she observed men requesting and sporting, “I won her with my heart, I married her with my diamond, I killed her with my club, I buried her with my spade,” eX de Medici weaves the motif of a deck of cards into her work to examine the constructs of power imbalance both at home and in broader society. “It’s not a new story, it’s a very old story. I think it’s entrenched across the whole planet.”
eX de Medici’s work for The Ideal Home consists of a three-metre watercolour, an 18th century French love settee upholstered with machine embroidered fabric entitled The Seat of Love and Hate as well as a massive flower arrangement that will die and decay over the course of the exhibition. eX de Medici’s work features numerous floral figures, and she notes that this has been a focus of hers, “I’ve worked with the bloom for a long time, it has powerful codes. In my research over the years, I’ve discovered that in a lot of east-Asian countries, the flower is not representative of the female, it’s representative of the male.” Fusing cross-cultural design elements, The Seat of Love and Hate draws upon the 2:1 pattern proportions of Indonesian batik, whilst being western in design.
“I decided I’d make the most conservative things I could think of,” eX de Medici said on her choice of material, going on to explain “I wanted to make the work as easy to enter as possible. No obscuration, no discrete subtlety in discourse, I wanted it to be open for anyone to jump straight in and have a look at what was actually being said in the work.” Citing an interest in political science and weapons manufacturers, eX de Medici notes control is a key factor in the perpetration of gendered violence and references this by way of a shotgun, a weapon currently the topic of debate. “Mostly when I make this kind of work it makes me nauseous, my own work makes me sick,” she says of the design process.
Utilising the broad concept of home allows for artists and designers across multiple differences to reflect on this everyday, but complex, concept. Dr Lee-Anne Hall, Director of Penrith Regional Gallery, emphasised the exhibition’s wide appeal, stating that “this diverse and interactive exhibition offers a fantastic opportunity for our audience to engage with themes and issues that continue to define home life in Australia today.”
The Ideal Home highlights the multifaceted nature of Australian home life and the interconnected nature of our experiences individually and as a country. In addition to the two exhibitions, the schedule will be supported by a public program with free and paid events that will run across the four-month exhibition period. Highlights include campouts in the gallery gardens, community meals, writing workshops and panel discussions. To view the full program click here: https://www.penrithregionalgallery.com.au/events/the-ideal-home/