by Judy Z in New Art, New Events on Thursday 19 July 2007

I’ve seen a few unusual artworks over the years — a sordid unmade bed at the Tate; a horribly lifelike model of a tiny, shriveled and ancient grandmother in her final throes of life; even a selection of used tampons from around the world bizarrely displayed in a vitrine at Sydney’s MCA. But I never expected to see a friend’s hair bundled up like bread rolls in a bakers’ lunch tray at the Manly Museum. The hair rolls are part of a marvelous exhibition called Lunch for the Trades, made by Ruth Downes, sculptor, designer and creator of many inspired public artworks. In 2002 her earlier work, Tea Party in the Mayoral Garden, won the People’s Prize at the first national Sculpture Awards in Canberra. Both the Tea Party and the Trades Lunches are based on witty puns, both verbal and visual. The Electrician’s lunch tray is made of fluorescent light tube, insulated wire and illuminated bulbs. The name of this dish: Spaghetti with Light Source. The Computer Technician tray, Micro Fiche ‘n Chips, comprises DVD player, circuit board, micro fiche and micro chips. The exhibition is inspired by Ruth’s realization that many trades are now both undervalued and endangered. In the course of her research she found a French gilder living in Sydney who shared his expertise to help her create yet another mini masterpiece — chicken nuggets with golden roasted potatoes. Ingredients: gold leaf, Hebel block, timber and ceramic. Ruth’s work is witty and aesthetically pleasing, as well as having a deeper underlying message; in this case, that valuable trade skills are being lost, possibly forever. Lunch for the Trades shows at the Gold Coast Art Gallery until August 12.

Ruth Downes

 

Ruth Downes