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La Biennale di Venezia

Venice

Jill Mulleady

May You Live In Interesting Times

May 11, 2019

Nov 24, 2019

Jill Mulleady’s practice shifts between close observations of everyday reality and highly elaborated imaginary worlds. In her work, references to historical painting are put into communication with images taken from both popular culture and personal life, creating a strange feeling of merged, multiplied temporalities. These paintings can be seen as allegories for the contemporary experience of the image as interface: not just a picture but a means of mobilising attention, bodies and affects within an increasingly virtualised social space.

For the Venice Biennale, Mulleady takes the structure of Edvard Munch’s Frieze of Life as a starting point for two distinct series of new paintings. In the Giardini, This Connection Is Not Private (2019) depicts a hypnotic pleasure garden with figures dispersed across a frieze of linked interiors and landscapes, seven paintings linked by a single skyline. The figures here are joined in erotic pairs or isolated in moments of narcotic self-absorption. The glow of a smart screen, the tiny light of an electronic cigarette, a goat’s eyeball and a face in the mirror are like strange attractors that channel and fragment attention within the overall composition. A fire in the distance, a man in the woods and a ghostly apparition remain unnoticed as, here and there, figures stare out at the viewer, meeting our gaze from an uncrossable distance. Each painting seems to depict a different time of day or night as the horizon connects sunlit, dusky and moonlit scenes, uniting solitary figures within one bucolic vista and one common affect: the increasingly anxious experience of a state of suspension, where bodies linger detached from their own gestures. In one painting, a half-dressed figure is absorbed in the act of either inserting or removing her contact lens: a before or after moment where perception remains captivated by its own reflection.

In the Arsenale, The Fight Was Fixed (2019) shows a more chaotic, urban world of violent street scenes. Confrontations between civilians and police disrupt and trouble the compositions, as figures fall, twist and come to blows. Surfaces as harsh and blank as pavement repel or swallow the gaze, the action exploding within flat, yellow voids. Here, even improvised children’s games suggest a destabilising logic of competition that nobody finally controls. This frieze extends horizontally like a city street, channelling and mobilising subjects who – despite the infrastructure that would contain them – remain fundamentally homeless and ungovernable.

Certain elements – a black cat and an androgynous youth in a leather jacket – appear in both installations, as if to suggest a sort of quantum entanglement linking these alternate realities. Does the lakeside idyll of Mulleady’s Giardini installation anticipate the violent disruption of her Arsenale series? Or does the riot precede the garden? If This Connection Is Not Private evokes the empty time before or after the event, The Fight Was Fixed is like the news, entirely consumed and innervated by its own non-stop cycles. In one installation we get the dilated atemporality that opens up between bodies and perceptions in states of drifting disconnection; in the other, the pressurised no-time of the metropolitan swarm, along with the spreading chaos of social disintegration. Or maybe these are two layers composing one and the same world: not paradise or perdition but a multidimensional reality that is in fact closer to contemporary experience.

  • John Kelsey
Artworks
Jill Mulleady
Riot on the Holodeck, 2018
Oil on linen
65h x 54w in
165.10h x 137.16w cm
Jill Mulleady
Pico Boulevard, 2019
Oil on Linen
165h x 244w cm
64.96h x 96.06w in
Jill Mulleady
Woman in Purple, 2019
Oil on linen
64.96h x 35.43w in
165h x 90w cm
Jill Mulleady
Kids with Slime, 2019
Oil on linen
64.96h x 78.74w in
165h x 200w cm
Jill Mulleady
The fight was fixed, 2017
Oil on linen
64.96h x 49.61w in
165h x 126w cm
Jill Mulleady
Interior, 2019
Oil on linen
168 x 152 cm (left panel)
168 x 120 cm (right panel)
Jill Mulleady
Erupted Citadel, 2018
Oil on linen
168h x 152w in
426.72h x 386.08w cm
Jill Mulleady
Point Lobos, 2018
Oil on linen
168h x 172.50w cm
66.14h x 67.91w in
Jill Mulleady
This Connection is not Private, 2018
Oil on linen
168h x 148w cm
66.14h x 58.27w in
Jill Mulleady
Exterior with Goats, 2019
Oil on linen
168 x 90 cm (left panel)
168 x 200 cm (right panel)