Turning 50 seemed insignificant to the artist, a ‘storm in a teacup’. In fact it heralded a paradigm shift in rationale, practice and life, along with the realisation, acceptance and clarity that transpires for someone who has wholly lived every single moment along the way.
‘I Am 50” – the title neither the alpha, or omega of McCahon, more a parody of the awkward space that lies between. There is no reference here to Christianity just to self – autobiographical in nature, self-deprecating yet congratulatory at the same time. Utilising Pop Art text messages that contain some of the irony of Post Modernism, Blogg employs semiotics, boldly flaunting the traditional use of imagery and its conventional narrative, where rhetoric signification doesn’t apply and the word/number becomes the artwork itself.
This exhibition utilises repetition, the multiple, found object, pattern, texture, colour and hue just as we have come to expect from the artist, but in a more subdued version, indicative of the whole aging process itself.
It is impossible to resist the urge to decode these works and their translation from linguistic to visual expression. The imagery appears flirty at first glance but the underlying intent becomes apparent when viewing them en masse. ‘Stop-50’ and ‘Go-50’ a crossroads, fits and starts, the ‘lollipop’ authoritarian safety sign transforming from its original commanding intent, transposed now to the epic minefield of hormonal fluctuations. The male urge to flee from such discussion will be replaced by a need to investigate further, enhanced by Jo’s relinquishing the idea of overcoming the artistic male domain, instead contentedly settling (with occasional outbursts) firmly into the space her prolific and experienced artistic expression afford her. None of her quirkiness is lost here, just a realisation within the works themselves that the artist is truly connected and at peace with her self.
There is humility and humbleness exposed and the work is more transgender in nature, less feminine almost, with exceptions such as the ‘Colour Blind’ test that flashes with light and effervescence. Jo’s abhorrence of feminine stereotypes clearly visible in the embroidered ‘50’, yet stitching softens it somehow. Not an instruction or a deterrent – its power diminished by its tactility, softness and form.
Her 1st exhibition of road signs in 2008 was about the ‘distillation of tamed rebellion’, now Jo claims to not have a rebellious bone in her body. Don’t believe her! Her perceptions may have changed along with her vision – but her core principles reign true. The need to express her sexuality is not a priority here but at closer glance it is most definitely imbued within it. The overall muted tones express a knowing, less ‘in your face’, perhaps even more forcefully than previous more colourful exhibitions. The slightly decayed appearance of one piece is a telling reminder that this artist has a firm grip on her own longevity without lingering or mourning and moving swiftly on.
At 50 Jo has seen all the warning signs and doesn’t want to speed up, but to enjoy life and see all of the things she maybe didn’t notice or acknowledge as the world sped by. There exists here to a tinge of sadness. Thoughts of never being able to reproduce again and all those big fat juicy words attached to the fertile female body morph and change as the big M (menopause) completely upsets the applecart, throwing into chaos previously entrenched thoughts and ideals.
But along with change comes’ growth, contentment and ease with the person that you have become. The line is crossed, and Jo doesn’t want to go back. Not one step closer to the grave, no, no – instead honesty and comfy knickers take precedence, and making herself happy without guilt now truly a reality.
Fiona Hislop BVAD, MFA