REVIEW: Hypergamy @ Studio281

Reviewed by: Tahlia Sanders

If you haven’t yet visited Hypergamy at Studio 281 in Maylands, I would highly recommend that you do before it closes on the 24th of December. For those of you who were wondering, the term ‘hypergamy’ refers to “a state in which one marries above their social status.” Inspired by the rich history of social influence behind this somewhat outdated expression; artists Andrew Nicholls, Cherish Marrington, Kuan Jia, Lance Kershaw Ladu, and Patrick Doherty, united for a night of debaucherous artistic exploration.

Hypergamy had a spectacular opening night – one of the best I have ever attended in Perth.  It was opulent without feeling excessive or contrived. It was elegant without losing its sense of intimacy; sophisticatedly comfortable.  The show seemed so perfectly curated, so immacutely injected with wit and lechery that I couldn’t believe it when the artists told me it had been pulled together with very little notice.

Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders
Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders

Leo Flavel, the Studio281 gallery manager, had contacted Cherish Marrington only a few weeks before Hypergamy’s opening to discuss putting together a final show for the year. Cherish made a call to her close friend, and esteemed Perth artist, Lance Kershaw Ladu, who was also keen to get involved. A boozy visit to the gallery ensued, with the trio all agreeing that an erotic art show was “overdue and necessary.” It would be the first of its kind in Perth. Cherish told me that they wanted only the most likeminded and diverse artists involved on the project. This meant Kuan Jia, Patrick Doherty and Andrew Nicholls were the first to be called on and luckily they were leapt on board with enthusiasm.

Artwork by Cherish Marrington. Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders

What made the show so special, in Cherish’s opinion were the “old school” personal touches; the “sense of generosity.” When planning the event, Studio281 and the supporting artists wanted to do things differently. Their unique approach was definitely evident in all elements of the evening: the personalised invites, delivered by post; the harpist; the erotic temporary tattoos; the warmth of the artists mingling with the crowd; the decadent, laboriously constructed banquet as the centre piece; the inclusion of Lance’s own boudoir bedroom furniture as décor and finally, the spectacular floral display that adorned the roof above guests’ heads (courtesy of Bloom Tribe). The compilation of the night was flawless and the proof that Studio281 and the artists had got it right was in the diversity of the guests who were welcomed: the crowd of impeccably dressed hipsters (young and old) was punctuated by children, dogs and even Cherish’s pet budgie.

Credit: Studio 281

The exhibited artwork varied from primitive, passion-fuelled mark making to intricate delineations.

Cherish’s art is fuelled by “left wing illustrators” like Raymond Pettibon and animators like Rene Laloux and heavily influenced by costume design and theatre. Her art on the night drew upon themes of imperialism, raw animalism and often-uncomfortable femininity. Many of her pieces depicted humanoid, animal-woman hybrids, and women either imprisoned by their feminine garb or by their forbidden lust for one another.

Hypergamy artists. Credit: Studio 281

Lance is an emerging illustrative artist like Cherish, who is known for exploring the tension between the traditional and the radical surrounding gender and form. His work for Hypergamy depicted an intimate and tantalising representation of traditional, voluptuous womanhood. His pieces feature buxom women, who lounge in nothing but their jewellery and wilt in their exaggerated femininity. 

Artwork by Lance Kershaw Ladu. Credit: Studio 281

Unlike the other artists, Andrew chose not to frame his art for the show, preferring to display it raw and collage-like via paper stuck to the wall. As a well-practiced and highly esteemed artist (he refers to himself as the “grandfather of the group”), Andrew wasn’t able to compile new works in time for the show.

Artwork by Andrew Nicholls. Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders

Instead, he chose to feature works from an older show called Go to Hell, an affectionate, parodic exploration of Catholocism through the ages (particularly regarding its traditional fear of homosexuality) that he composed whilst grappling with his Catholic upbringing. Some of the newer pieces that he featured acted to provide insight into the “semi-mythical position that Italy has held in the British consciousness since the 18th century, how it came to represent a mixture of very stoic classicism and overt sensuality.” What resulted was a brilliant mismatch of the lewd and the fanciful; penises with vicious teeth and spread-eagled men with noses for genitalia.

Artwork by Kuan Jia. Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders
Artwork by Kuan Jia. Image Credit: Studio 281

I struggled most to interpret Kuan’s pieces. Whilst undoubtedly beautiful and brilliant, they were much more understated in their eroticism than the other artists’ pieces. She had drawn upon her career as a fashion illustrator, to weave sensuality into a seemingly austere depiction of feminine sartorialism. Her goal, she says, was to provide an “obscure visual stimulant” through her rendering of garments and stance. The intimate physicality between the human body and a piece of clothing is something she explores through her depiction of “texture and flesh strokes.” Kuan’s work, according to Andrew, is the kinkiest in the show “because you really have to search for the perversity in it, but it’s there.”

Credit: Tahlia Sanders
Artwork by Patrick Doherty. Image Credit: Tahlia Sanders

Finally, Patrick’s work stood in stark contrast to the rest of the artists. He told me at the exhibition that he was far less technical in his process, and more emotional. This is immediately evident in the brutality of his work. It writhes with violence, uncomfortable objectification and personification of body parts. Andrew aptly described Patrick’s work to me as a “ludicrously hypersexual hallucinatory dreamscape.” As I entered the room that was encompassed entirely by a tapestry of Patrick’s art, I felt emotionally overwhelmed but also appreciative that he had been brave enough to exhibit such a shocking piece of work.

The resulting exhibition is dynamic, groundbreaking and genius. I cannot recommend highly enough that you check it out before it ends.