TRUE BLUE BABE

 

 

…Grogan’s needlepoint quilt TRUE BLUE BABE embodies the island’s simultaneous nature. By exploring the site through his personal identities and idioms Grogan excorcises a broader, national dialogue. Here his island functions as both microcosm and macrocosm. It is emblematic of an Australian status as well as the individual’s. From beneath his embroidered slogans Grogan makes clear that his language is the language of love. For him, Australia is the patchwork. At times it is the incongruent mash-up of patterns, stories and sources, a place of incoherent anachronism or regression.

Yet it is from the scraps, the off-cuts, those cast aside that he creates the body of his subject. Not only does he physically and metaphorically piece them together to form a cohesive whole but the result is a product for comfort, ‘something that will keep you and I warm’. Once united his scenes form a picture of an imperfect world, an imperfect state. This however is an existence he chooses to protect and love. Despite its ‘ugly bits’, there is a co-dependency. It is a relationship he ‘could not live without’.

Belinda Howden
Excerpt from catalogue essay No Artist Is An Island 2010 Lock-Up Cultural Centre Newcastle

ARETEMIS 2011
Newcastle Region Art Gallery

Lucas Grogan’s work is not for the faint-hearted and True Blue Babe 2010 confronts social dilemmas in today’s Australia, our colonial past and national character.

The quilt is arresting, visually and psychologically. From a distance, the images are clean, clear and beguilingly familiar, but like the hidden erotic frieze in an otherwise chaste Asian temple, closer inspection reveals confronting, even anti-social behaviour. The two naked men, menacingly cavorting on either side of the central panel seem to be asking for help. One perhaps performs an age-old dance, proud of his heritage, but the other like a predatory lyre-bird stalks through the litter of discarded bottles. Alcohol and sex are powerful elements.

Grogan is a white Australian but images in his work echo those of an indigenous artistic lexicon. Hiw work creates a dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous art, a simultaneous homage acknowledging the beauty of the indigenous, and a challenge to negotiate the possibility of sharing these images in the world’s collective subconscious.

Patchwork quilts are a metamorphosis, something new constructed from the old scraps and cast-offs. They are personal and domestic objects associated with warmth, home and motherly love. Quilting and embroidery are female activities, household arts based on pattern making. So is Grogan usurping another exclusive domain? His images are blatantly masculine but, his delicate and fastidious work conveys security, acceptance, cooperation and the artist’s love of his country.

True Blue Babe 2010 references a fine old Tasmanian quilt from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The Westbury Quilt, made between 1900 and 1903 by sisters, the Misses Hampson, who ‘owned a farm over Cluan way’ is a traditional Turkey Red quilt, embroidered and appliqued in a rich cream colour in the medallion style, full of humour and witty oberservation. Grogan’s horses and kangaroo are similar, as are his cheerful though fatalistic texts. Words and images refer to departure as well as to white settlement of “My Island Home”.

Our history and cultural identity are encapsulated in all the compartmentalised images, anchored by the shield forms or patchwork templates at the four corners of an unmistakable Australian landscape.

Claudia Hyles
Artemis- Newcastle Art Gallery Society Magazine 2011
Volume 42 Number 2 p. 8-9