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Zoomorphia: Maria Fernanda Cardoso

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


09 Apr 2003 to 06 Jul 2003

Curator: Elizabeth Ann Macgregor

About the exhibition

Colombian-born artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso moved to Connecticut in the United States to undertake her Masters degree at Yale University and since 1996 has made Sydney her home. Best known in Sydney for her performance, the Cardoso Flea Circus, presented live at the Sydney Opera House during the 2000 Sydney Festival. This solo exhibition at the MCA was the first major presentation of Cardoso’s work in Australia, bringing together a number of significant works from more than a decade of exhibiting internationally.

Characterised by the use of unconventional materials, her evocative, and in some ways even provocative, work reveals her longstanding interest in the natural world and the ambiguity of our relationship to it.

Some of the works in this exhibition used the preserved bodies of frogs and lizards and dead butterflies, which were farmed for scientific and educational purposes. Cardoso incorporated dried sea creatures produced by the tourist industry and from Chinese medicine. These raw materials, with their potent symbolism, recalled patterns that exist in the natural world as well as minimalist sculpture, where simple elements are repeated to create more complex forms. Sculptural in form, many of the works were more akin to drawing in space.

These works also contained references to mythical symbols in pre-Columbian culture. The latent violence and references to death in some of the work also had a particular poignancy in a Latin American and particularly Colombian context, where violence and death were very much a part of everyday life. However, in the more recent work, there was a strong humorous element, particularly in the video works produced in collaboration with her partner, artist Ross Rudesch Harley, where the antics of the animals projected their ‘personalities’.

In her later works, Cardoso turned her attention to a quintessentially Australian animal, the sheep, because of the economic and cultural significance of wool and the role it has played in the development of the agricultural landscape of her new home.

Cardoso’s work has been described as a contemporary reinterpretation of the tradition of still life painting. She draws on references from art history, popular culture and scientific theories of biodiversity to create a complex and intriguing body of work which raises serious issues but refrains from making judgements.

This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of MCA Ambassadors.

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