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Home Sweet Home: works from the Peter Fay collection
11 October – 18 January 2004

Val SUTHERLAND | Shell doll | 2000
Val SUTHERLAND
New Zealand 1958
Shell doll 2000
synthetic polymer paint and shells on papier-mache
18.0 X 12.0 X 5.0 cm

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PF Val is a New Zealand artist who lives in the sort of hinterland of the North Island, and almost through a rural isolation and very straightened circumstances which she lives, is somebody whose whole culture comes out of television, and the series of d

PF Val is a New Zealand artist who lives in the sort of hinterland of the North Island, and almost through a rural isolation and very straightened circumstances which she lives, is somebody whose whole culture comes out of television, and the series of dolls that she made came from a workshop that she went to in the town of Masterton, where somebody was giving a lesson in making papier-máchê, or using papier-máchê, and they made papier-máchê dolls.

So Val’s first doll-making was in that area, and she made the things from television. She made The Simpsons, she made cartoon characters, all of these various things at a much reduced scale of course. And then there were people working in the studio who were doing some raku firing and she thought she’d have a go at making some dolls in that way.

The sophistication that she’d built up through the papier-máchê suddenly was, what shall I say, not threatened, but challenged by using clay. I think you can see in this that crudeness, or the apparent crudeness, is turned into a real sense of vulnerability in these dolls.

That she transcended just being dolls of television characters, and although they are in some ways deformed, again there’s the humanity, and there’s also a playfulness, and there’s a sense of youth, and age, and dressing up, and also that crossover when a doll in the young child’s mind is not a doll, but is a person; a living object.

I think Val’s magic is to infuse into these dolls that she’s making that sense of the human.

They sort of become metaphors for our own feelings of awkwardness, or ‘not quite fitting in’, or not feeling right in terms of the advertising world saying what we must look like. They are very vulnerable, and very human, and yet at the same time, with their sewn-on arms; the little buttons to attach the arms and legs, they’re very much like that moment at midnight when the dolls become human. They’re very much like that for me. They’re at that point of becoming.