As seen on the Deuce Magazine Blog, this article looks at the work The day pigeons taught bear to fly by Mylyn Nguyen + Todd Fuller, dissecting their creative relationship as well as considering their individual artistic practices…
Over the past four years as a gallery assistant, I have seen my fair share of creative minds simultaneously besotted with and broken by the fruits of their tireless and often under-appreciated labour. This relationship an artist has with their work is deeply personal, exposing inner thoughts and ideas for audiences to ogle and judge. Observing such consuming artistic tendencies has led to a personal fascination with artists who allow uncontrollable elements within the creation and reception of their works. Collaborations are one such occurrence in which creative people are forced to let go and compromise, allowing the visions of another to compete, clash and concur with their own.
Rather than sitting side by side, contemporary Australian artists Mylyn Nguyen and Todd Fuller realised their thirty-six centimetre tall sculpture The day pigeons taught bear to fly by taking turns; working in a creative dialogue with one another. Fuller moulded the terracotta bear, with its furrowed brow and hunched, pot-bellied physic. Nguyen then embellished the expressive sculpture with its own world, sprouting out of its shoulder and head to house a small hand-drawn water-coloured girl in a bear suit being lifted by a flock of miniscule pigeons.
It’s not exactly a conventional artistic relationship – taking in turns the process of co-creation – but looking at their previous bodies of works, Nguyen and Fuller’s collaboration shows a world that reflects their individual oeuvres. The result is a captivating creative dialogue.
Entranced by the whimsy, engaged by the miniature scale and captivated by the technical sophistication, when you interact with the work of Nguyen, you glimpse a child-like imagination that has been brought to life by sculptural narratives. Creating hand drawn animations and ceramic sculptures that illustrate vulnerable protagonists with heavy hearts and bloated bellies, Fuller’s figures embody loneliness and overburden, personifying the obstacles of everyday life.
It is a practice that is perfectly complimented by Fuller’s conceptual mind. In fact, back in 2012, Nguyen and Fuller had concurrent solo exhibitions at Brenda May Gallery entitled, respectively, ‘An owl flew into my office’ and told me to look for Bear’ and ‘Somewhere in Between’. The day pigeons taught bear to fly is aesthetically and conceptually the love child of these two exhibitions.
The title of Fuller’s 2012 show comes from his animation of the same name, which sees a lonesome man grapple with the desire and difficulty of wanting to let go of that which both traps and comforts him. Nguyen’s exhibition featured pint-sized animals crafted out of dirt with trees burgeoning from rocks sitting atop the creature’s heads. Fuller’s bear in The day pigeons taught bear to fly is not unlike his protagonist in Somewhere in Between, as there is a sadness in the creature’s hollow eyes and vulnerability in his pose, however Nguyen’s contribution to this sculpture has given this figure hope. Unlike Somewhere in Between, it does not seem that Fuller’s bear will remain trapped. Nguyen’s visualisation of childhood wonder has provided the bear with a friend who, with the help of a flock of pigeons, has allowed an escape for the bear in the form of a flying lesson – a metaphor for giving into freedom and the possibility of experiencing pure joy through the act of letting go.
Todd Fuller and Mylyn Nguyen will be one of three artistic pairings in the exhibition ‘In Tandem’, scheduled for April 2014 at Brenda May Gallery in Sydney.
- Olivia Welch