Let The World Burn

Let The World Burn

Artist: Paul Yore

Curator: Kate Davis

Ararat Gallery TAMA (Textile Art Museum Australia)

9 November 2019 - 1 March 2020 

review by Helen Hughes for Artforum

Stepping into Paul Yore’s world can be a challenging experience. Let The World Burn is no exception; the tension and the turmoil interwoven into these intensely layered pieces is palpable. Through the uncomfortable intermingling of images, words, ideologies and materials, Yore questions the cultural codes that govern our bodies and behaviour; and examines the role of art within society. By using reclaimed material and painstaking hand-embroidering techniques, Yore utilises the historical deployment of subversive hand-craft to lay the woes of the world to bear.

The artist draws on a wide range of sources, from cartoons, pop culture and erotica to classical Greek art, and Flemish and French tapestries. What a Horrid Fucking Mess (2016), the exhibition’s central piece, was acquired by Ararat Gallery TAMA (Textile Art Museum Australia) in 2016. This large-scale, hand-sewn, mixed-media textile work incorporates appliqué, embroidery and painting alongside collaged Australiana material. These tactile materials are immediate and familiar; as too is the imagery used to capture Yore’s interpretation of the atmosphere today.

Created in response to an Assyrian stone carving encountered at the British Museum, What a Horrid Fucking Mess began as a free-form work inspired by the carving’s monumental figure. Yore fused his research in folk art and traditional textiles with this winged, human-headed lion. It is the central motif in an assemblage of jumbled language, kitsch Australiana, gay culture, well-known contemporary figures, high and low-brow cultural forms, and the trimmings of capitalism. This hodgepodge resembles contemporary Australia, and Yore uses this terrain to question whether he fits within this space. Yore’s intensely layered works seem to gyrate as the diverse imagery competes for our attention; much like the image-saturated context of the digital age, where a confluence of cat memes, Kardashians and world events flood our screens.

Fragmented news stories and headlines are flattened into planes and confront the audience as they traverse the space; akin to the 24-hour news cycle. The obfuscation of any comprehensible narrative brings post-truth philosophies into play. While (Soft) Hard Brexit (2018) and SORRY(2017) make overt assertions, other pieces are more subtle. It is not just the subversive content that critically examines the systems that shape society and culture, but the process itself. Yore uses meticulous, time-consuming and laborious needlework as a counter-cultural survival mechanism. This meditative methodology helps him cope with the rapid pace of the contemporary world. (Soft) Hard Brexit also speaks to ecological concerns amid fast-paced consumer culture as it is made from many years’ worth of off-cuts and is stuffed with all sorts of materials.

While Yore’s dystopic visions are nightmarish, joyous gay frivolity prevails, defying the strictures of the scene. The visual language employed is busy, unrestrained and sign-laden, denying any definition. For Yore, this is the essence of radical queer identity; an ambiguous space of becoming, rather than a rigidly prescribed fixity. This unwillingness to limit or define is exemplified by the diversity of canvases utilised. Hold On Until It’s Over (2016) cuts a sharp figure, its triangular form has looming corners that stare the viewer down, almost like the head of an axe, while It’s All Your Fault Mum (2016) has a soft, rounded, bodily form. The latter is embellished with glittering miscellanea, the most notable being the celebratory Mardi Gras beads.

Photos: Andrew Curtis