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Consumerism & Desire at Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney

Review by Isabella Andronos

Sherrie Knipe’s work in Bootiful, at Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art in Sydney explores the tensions between consumerism and desire. Knipe has created enigmatic sculptures using pine, plywood, and acrylic, with each work synthesising a type of consumer product. Focusing predominantly on shoes and handbags much of Knipe’s work in Bootiful can be seen as coded with a sense of the feminine.

Consumer brand names have become synonymous with ideas of mass production, sweatshops and slave labour. Having delicately created each sculpture, distinctions are forged between Knipe’s artwork and the consumer products they are based on. Each of Knipe’s sculptures is imbued with a sense of the fake. They are not designed to be functional, consumer items. Knipe’s works are not replicas, but yet aim to imitate items from a consumer culture.

Sherrie Knipe’s elegant sculptures of shoes appropriate popular styles of footwear, combining them with minute details hidden within the pattern and surface design. She has created works that resemble Converse Chuck Taylors, NIKE dunks and Birkenstocks. Utilising elements of design from these styles, Knipe has added small details of keys, pegs, combs, and lace in each respective pair. Coloured in neutral beige tones of the wood, the shoes take on an organic feel. Linked with the titles of the works, Knipe’s sculptures read as visual puns. For example, Knipe combines a flip flop style shoe and a series of small combs of various designs located within the sole. In this sense, the style of shoe represents the beach, and combined with the combs, the work corresponds to the title, Beachcomber (2010). In a similar vein, Feed Bag (2010) shows a clear acrylic handbag exterior, filled with cutlery shapes carved out of wood. Spoons, knives and forks can be seen fitted within the interior handbag space. By titling the works in this way, the audience is challenged to consider hidden meanings in the works.

Sherrie Knipe’s Boot Bling (2010) is a sculpture of a sneaker which resembles a classic Converse Chuck Taylor style shoe, created using pine veneer and cotton. Knipe explores the idea of design excesses within this work, as she depicts a series of smaller sneakers dangling off the back of the shoe. The use of the word bling in the title of the work is referencing these smaller sneakers as a decoration or adornment. Bling is defined by flashy or gaudy jewellery, named for the sound generated when worn. It is seen as a status symbol, worn as a means of promoting standing within specific sub-cultures. Within Knipe’s sculpture, the shoe is rendered functionless by this adornment, it is an impractical design. The distinctions between consumerism and desire are explored, as Boot Bling (2010) becomes a symbol of the excesses in the Western world.

A similar sense of repetition is explored in Baggushka (2010) created out of pine and found veneers, cotton and plywood. Sherie Knipe’s sculpture shows a large handbag with a series of tiny handbags attached to the strap, each getting progressively smaller. The handbag can be seen as a gendered item, an item designed and marketed to appeal to women. To have three bags dangling off a larger bag can be seen as somewhat superfluous. By presenting audiences with a design where impracticality has replaced function, Baggushka (2010) allows audiences to consider the surpluses of consumerism and design.

There is an interesting distinction between the sculptural objects Knipe has created, and products which they are based on, which could essentially be bought at a shopping centre. There is an inherent obsolescence associated with fashion in contemporary society; new collections are released each season, trends change, a sense of the “new” is valued. Bootiful functions to question this consumer need. Elevated to the status of art, Knipe’s sculptures are exhibited in the gallery space, they are static; they are not worn, or used, or displayed as a status symbol. They are not thrown out at the end of the season. In this sense, the excesses of a consumer driven society are referenced in Bootiful, with each sculptural piece showing us a reflection of these indulgences.

Bootiful closed on 19 December 2010. To see the forthcoming programme at Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art visit their website www.ssfa.com.au

*Take Away Series
Knipe, Sherrie 2010
Recycled pine
19 x 5 x 15.5cm

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