Peter VANDERMARK | Fattish VII


Fattish VII 1998
plaster, leather
15 (h) x 30 (w) x 28 (d) cm
Private collection


The small, anomalous objects from Peter Vandermark’s monochromatic Fattishseries fight against their constraints to the point of bursting. Swollen and engorged, the works are animated by the sense that they may explode at any moment. Reinforcing this tension is the contrast between the works’ materials: flawlessly smooth plaster is bound by soft leather or vinyl belts, highlighting the difference between the two substances and creating an awareness of their inherent qualities.

Vandermark created the pieces from large balls of wet plaster which he pulled and squeezed into shape, and then secured with leather or vinyl, racing to complete the ties before the plaster dried. The process was intensely physical; knees, arms and legs were all employed to keep the slippery masses of plaster from drying out or dropping to the floor. This physicality has been translated into the resultant works: the bulbous protrusions are organic, almost bodily.

Despite their corporeal presence, the works possess a sense of the mysterious. Vandermark refers to Man Ray’s The enigma of Isidore Ducasse 1947, in which a (supposed) sewing machine is wrapped in felt and tied with string. Here the artist has created the appearance of such a wrapped article by binding his objects, but there is no material to cover the bare plaster. We are left to wonder if perhaps there might be another layer beneath the polished and hardened exterior.

The collective title Fattish is another visual reference for viewers to ponder. Surely the title must refer to the soft bulging of flesh against leather? The works do indeed invoke impressions of the human body, of a belt fastened too tightly around a flabby stomach. But is that all? The word ‘fetish’ comes to mind and the cheeky, seemingly self-contained pieces become a little wicked.

Emilie Owens
Administrative Assistant
International Art
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra