This article was first published by The Wheeler Centre on 13 May 2014
Melbourne artist Julie Shiels says her exploration of stories told by what we leave on the street began in 2005 with a flattened muselet, the wire that holds a champagne cork in place. But for as long as I’ve known her, Shiels has had a talent for reading the poetry in everyday objects, drawing attention to the magic we might otherwise miss in the streets.
Shiels and I met in Hanoi in the mid-1990s, back when motorcycles outnumbered cars in the streets and drivers bought petrol by the litre from roadside stalls. Vendors advertised by perching recycled glass or plastic bottles of fuel on blocks of wood at the edge of the footpath. I passed such bottles countless times but didn’t appreciate their quirkiness, precariousness and incendiary potential until I saw them in Shiels’ paintings.
These were loud works, green petrol bottles against red backgrounds, part of a 1996 exhibition in Hanoi, which also included paintings of onomatopoeic traffic noises written in the Vietnamese alphabet. The overall effect was a cacophony of light and sound that mirrored life on the street.
The works in Sheils’s current exhibition, As long as it lasts, are quiet by comparison. But they share a sensibility with those paintings in Hanoi, encouraging us to stop and take notice of stories in the street that might otherwise escape our notice…
Read the rest of this article on The Wheeler Centre website.