by Jonathan Nichols
Through Hany Armanious’s Venice exhibition you can find your way around the back to MUMA’s latest collection rehang.
Into the middle of the room you look straight at two mini-figures dressed in pyjamas. Attached to both heads is an identical Ronnie van Hout painted skin face. They look a bit like Olaf Nicolai’s Oedipus (c. 2002) or a Charles Ray mannequin or any other of all those weirdly proliferating mannequin-type sculptures.
Ronnie van Hout and Hany Armanious were both part of the early grunge set in Australia. They share the humour.
Doom and gloom (from 2009) is a little chewed up and slightly coarse but I like work that can be seemingly irresolute or ill-mandated. It has the feel of two little male siblings sharing the same familiar smelly bedroom.
But there is another feeling there too about Van Hout begetting another Van Hout, about repeating himself. I get this as a deeper down type of unease, not just about a child’s physical health, but what else they’re carrying along.
At the opening Ronnie said, ‘you can’t do things too well cause otherwise they think it’s about craft’.
I don’t think he really cares who ‘they’ are.
Self-conscious—contemporary portraiture, MUMA, Melbourne, 1 February – 7 April 2012.