Van Sowerwine - Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth

Exhibition: 12 October to 17 November, 2005

Van Sowerwine

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Van Sowerwine is a visual and new media artist who works across the areas of animation, installation, interactives and photography. Sowerwine is particularly interested in exploring the dark underside of idealised notions of childhood, and the possibilities of a sudden slippage from the familiar into the unknown. With her animated doll characters, she creates domestic scenes that show children as both witness and instigator of violence, and she combines cuteness and vulnerability with a use of scale that produces a child as monster.

Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth consists of a series of large-scale photographs of miniature domestic scenes depicting Sophie, an eight-year old girl who is angry, upset and vulnerable. She is alone in a kitchen, surrounded by the evidence of recent violence: upturned furniture, broken plates and food thrown against the wall. Sophie accosts viewers with her defiant stare, challenging us to determine what has happened. Did she instigate or simply witness the destruction that surrounds her? Sophie's doll-like appearance and large eyes convey cuteness, passivity and vulnerability. This harmless exterior belies a more sinister truth conveyed by the violence of her situation and stance. Sowerwine painstakingly creates her subjects and their settings before photographing them.

Sowerwine's interest in both the beautiful and the difficult parts of childhood is evident in her interactive work, Play With Me (2002) shown in the Anne Landa Award at the AGNSW and in her short film Clara (2005) which won a Special Mention Award in the Short Film Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Sowerwine has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. Her most recent animated installation (with Clara animator Isobel Knowles) Expecting is touring around Australia in 2004/2005 as part of the Experimenta: House of Tomorrow exhibition. Both interactives Expecting and Play With Me have also been shown as part of Media City Seoul 2004, the Korean biennale of new media art. The Melbourne International Arts Festival commissioned some of the works from Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth to be shown on the Republic Tower billboards in Melbourne.