ARTISTS Kushana Bush, Grayson Perry
Turner Prize-winning artist, potter, writer, broadcaster, and transvestite, Grayson Perry CBE is a British institution. The London-based artist’s Map of Truths and Beliefs (2011) catalogues current pilgrimage destinations, religious and secular, including Mecca, Stonehenge, Auschwitz, Davos, and Wembley. Woven on a computerised loom, this tapestry recalls the fanciful, allegorical maps of medieval times, addressing contemporary experience through an anachronistic style.
Perry explains: ‘I wanted to make a sort of altarpiece, a map of heaven ... The charge of it is in the clash of the prosaic and the spiritual … The female figure at the far left represents the aggressive consumerism of modern life: she has a black trouser suit, two iPhones and straightened hair. The boy at the centre is innocent logic: he’s got his set-square, his toy car and camouflage trousers; he’s trying to make sense of the universe. The bear is a wild, emotional vision of the world and the woman opposite in folk costume represents tradition. Between them they hold in balance the two things: raw creativity and sensuous desire, and the rules of society. Together they carry the disc of belief.’
Kushana Bush is a young artist from Dunedin. Like Perry, she depicts contemporary life using an anachronistic style. Her intricate, highly detailed gouaches are puzzling. They seem significant, but their significance escapes us. They are rendered in ways that suggest the arts of other times and places—Indo-Persian miniatures, Cambodian wall reliefs, Japanese prints, and pre-renaissance painting—and yet are peppered with tell-tale contemporary references. They seem idyllic and jewel-like, but are booby-trapped with ominous details.
Bush’s work is keyed to the tensions of globalisation and our anxieties about understanding the Other. In splicing here and there, then and now, occidental and oriental, and us and them, she nags our cosmopolitanism—our presumption to be citizens of the world, at home anywhere—emphasising instead confusion. We live in interesting times.