Ronnie Van Hout, Gertrude Contemporary Gallery, September 2016.
“You”, smaller than life size figure dressed in a onesie holding a microphone.
I attended a talk by Ronnie van Hout at MADA earlier in the year in May 2016.
I was intrigued to hear him talk about his creative practice and the work he does at MADA as I find him and his practice irreverent, fun and enjoyable. He puts the childish, high spirited and delightful playfulness into a serious artistic journey.
The front room exhibition space faces the street and has a large vista from the street and visibility for foot traffic, passers by in cars, and tram passengers. His diminutive figure is a self portrait or parody of the adult Ronnie dressed in a child’s batman onesie holding a microphone. The caption is YOU reinforced on a timber laser cutout board placed in a direct behind his head at the back of the front room.
His legs as placed in a spread eagled stance, one hand clutching a microphone, gaze directly ahead, a rather confrontational pose with the body protruding slightly forward. From distance the body looks childlike but is a grotesque self parody of the young Ronnie with the current older head. The hair is reddish hue, the eyes sea like blue, but steely. It implies a sense of fun with this small figure claiming attention by shouting YOU but its very presence in an obvious space. I laughed. It made me feel great. Its inviting you want to approach the figure and see why he is so angry, then you get a shock when you realise its an old persons face and mannerisms on a young person’s body.
The textile language is a strong piece of the work, in that the batman onesie reinforces the stereotype of what a juvenile might wear but the old head juxtaposes this young imagery.
Brilliantly executed the gallery space is a clever and appropriate placement for the work and attracts much attention and garners interest from passers-by. When I went a young woman who was caring for a child walked at the front of the gallery stopped, and exhorted the child to visit it as deserving of closer attention. A walk in and inspection incited her curiosity and and invited comment from the child. She talked to me about the work, asked the child her reaction and offered to take my photo with it. I believe the successful curation made the work engage more fully with the public and made this work address and achieve the desired purpose of the maker as signified by the title “YOU”. It was a bit of whimsical fun in a hectic, part of town and made scurrying city folk stop and embrace the work.