Alexandra Nemaric: Faith In The Perishability Of Love
*dumb brun(ette), Melbourne, 2017
Alexandra Nemaric’s Never Rich is an exhibition dealing with loss through a reinterpretation of religious iconography, dark pathos and allusions to familial heritage. Originally presented at c3 Contemporary Art Space and comprised of multiple mediums, the artist takes advantage of the elongated proportions of the space; evoking a Nave (the hall leading to an altar in a Church) in order to create a somber sense of iconographic re-presentation. This is achieved by placing a life- sized crucifix with a reflective surface at the farthest point from the entrance and locating drawings, a neon and a video on the walls. If one walks directly towards this mirror, the illusion of stepping into a dark realm may be experienced – as the cross bears an inverted reflection of the exhibition space that expands with proximity. Focusing on this flipped image upon the surface of the cross, one could read Nemaric’s work as somewhat of an Other to the pictorial systems it references. Nemaric’s dimly lit exhibition recalls fallen figures such as the vampire, who is arguably a shadow cast by the Catholic imaginary, a hollow drain where Catholic iconography is bitten and regurgitated.
In effect, the vampire is a deformation of the Catholic mythos, one that inflicts its semiology with deviance and a romantic sense of evil. For the vampire, the cross is no longer a source of comfort, but rather a reminder of its loss of humanity and an instigator of pain. Yet, it is a symbol that defines the identity of the vampire as much as a priest: the fears that haunt Catholicism are in turn what inscribe this creature with its horrific meaningfulness.
The vampire is a productive reference to decode Nemaric’s exhibition, as her works possess a seemingly vampiric approach to symbols, bearing a textuality that appears to swallow Christian signage with the same romantic anguish as this mythical figure. This is most prominent in her melancholic drawings, where one encounters a calix, doomed angles (with six fingers), a bleeding heart, and a black mirror. Drawn on an inscrutable black surface with white or lilac traces, they are tenebrous marks that evoke a great deal of tension. The drawings often feature ornamented forms, yet are drawn in an iconographic or economical manner. Staring at these works, I pictured the vampire Carmilla carving the top of her coffin as sunset falls in an attempt to find peace in her damnation: leaving behind traces of the bottomless longing that may accompany existence in this unfortunately decaying planet. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the vampire has become a fixture in popular culture, since humans occupying capitalist systems often display the same predatory and inexhaustible need to devour vitality. The vampire captures the misery of this affair, as it accumulates wealth throughout the centuries, yet remains marked by an eternal hunger that hollows its existence. In other words, this entity can amass social, cultural and financial wealth but never achieve a sense of richness. For the vampire, loss becomes a fixture: as every drop of blood gained is quickly lost. Nemaric’s concerns in this show articulate a critique of capitalist principles, corresponding with her interest in the regional agrarian practices of Eastern Europe.
Still, loss remains one of the most prominent themes in the exhibition and it is a concept conveyed in various forms across the work. Firstly, our reflection in the crucifix is fractured and dissipates as soon as we step out from its field of vision. Our image immediately turning into a fleeting memory by evading the containment of more lasting mediums, such as photography. The figure of the heart is also recurrent in her drawings, perhaps indicating the impermanence of romantic love: a shared state that when lost, is often grieved with the same intensity as death. Indeed, when a relationship ends, lovers can only be reconstituted in the murky arena of memories. The desire to be with each other becomes engulfed in a debilitating darkness, weakening the host that mourns these remembrances. The perishability of love is once again imprinted in the vampire, who may lament this emptiness till the end of times. Showing us that grievance is often a gaping hole, whose depths are a site of prolonged fear.
Alexandra Nemaric’s Never Rich reminded me that while one may be consumed by loss – a feeling akin to being consumed by a vampire at night – it is also a romantic experience, deserving of a tenebrous love poem. An angel needs a demon to define itself. In a similar manner, happiness may require dwelling in pain to fully understand its bliss. Her installation work How the Need Turns to History, consists of a red neon in the shape of an inverted commonplace plastic chair, extended this notion by locating the unsuspecting moments in which one may encounter these realizations. Such as sitting down in a backyard watching one’s grandfather walk in eternal circles as evident in her video Eyes of a Blue Dog. Playing on a bulky CRT TV and supported by a stick – used in the planting of seeds and passed on to the artist by her grandmother – this work seems to point to the people and objects that are never forgotten. Memories and cultural inclinations that are passed through to generations and extend beyond mortality. Perhaps some things are never lost.