Inhabit, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane, 14 -
Artist Statement: Drawn to the beauty of everyday rituals, this body of work, Inhabit, plays upon the feminine in domesticity through a series of intimate moments. Pastel coloured hues and playful narratives show these characters caught in a liminal space between longing and contentedness.
Inspired by domestic subject matter and covetable objects, this work explores ambiguous emotions in the search for beauty, pleasure, and perfection whilst giving prominence to the things we crave.
To read an exhibition essay by curator and writer, Eleanor Scicchitano, please scroll to the bottom of this page.
Balance, oil on linen, 71 x 73cm
Bloom, oil on linen, 66 x 76cm
Juggle, oil on linen, 56 x 71cm
Dream, oil on linen, 71 x 82cm
Drizzle, oil on linen, 76 x 84cm
Peel, oil on linen, 82 x 71cm
Stir, oil on linen, 76 x 101cm
Toast, oil on linen, 82 x cm
Desire, oil on linen, 84 x 76cm
Exhibition Companion Essay
Janine Dello’s new body of work Inhabit continues her exploration of femininity and the search for beauty and pleasure, presenting women navigating their domestic spaces. Lockdowns brought on by the pandemic in 2020 have meant everyone has spent an increased amount of time at home, either on their own or with family or friends. For many, this has changed our relationship with these spaces, and the others who inhabit them. Dello’s women are alone, navigating the space between comfort and claustrophobia, longing for company and contentedness in the peace of being alone.
In each image, Dello’s women are taking part in rituals of self-
But all is not relaxed, there are small moments of tension. Plan depicts a woman curled on a comfy arm chair, reading a book. The roundness of the chair is mimicked in the roundness of the vase that sits on the side table, the soft curves of the onion on the front of what I assume is a recipe book, perhaps by Ottolenghi, bringing up memories of cooking, spending time with simple ingredients. The warm brown of the chair moves into the soft, orange glow of the wall behind her. The white shirt, pants and shoes complement the cover of the book and the curved, elegant vase and flowers on the stand beside her. She is curled up, replicating the shape of the vase with her body. She is tied into environment, part of it, and appears to sit comfortably within it as she undertakes the planning of meals, perhaps as an indulgent time to spend with herself that night, or perhaps planning for the week, to minimise her time outside in a world that has turned hostile and imposing. Balanced carefully on the woman’s knee is a cup, that looks to hold a hot tea. One can imagine that if she shifts slightly, the scalding liquid will run down her leg and stain the pristine clothing. This tension speaks to the balance these women are negotiating in their new normal.
Dello creates comforting, meditative worlds for her women to inhabit. She works with a restricted pastel palette, in some images rendering her homes in multiple shades of only two or three colours. These pristine spaces, minimal in their decoration, speak to order and calm. Like her palette, these spaces are uncluttered, and free from the mess of work and life outside the home. They are self-
Each subject seems lost in their own world, navigating the domestic space without the input of others. They exclude the audience, turning their heads way from the outside world, covering their faces or hiding behind curtains or other objects. Where we do catch a glimpse of their faces, they feel like they are torn between wanting to escape and a desire to remain. In Toast Dello’s subject butters her breakfast, begrudgingly undertaking the important task of eating. She does this in a red dress, dressed more for a club than a kitchen. And though we see her face, she does not look at us. Gazing into the middle distance, she looks outside the home, signalling her desire to leave. In this way, Dello tells her viewer that these are solo pursuits, the women exist wholly within themselves and their homes, though not all of them are happy to be there. This is their exploration, and it is up to them how they find a balance.
Inhabit shows portraits of women finding their place, learning for themselves to exist in a space that they cannot leave. They oscillate between relaxation and tension, feeling at home and at odds with their surroundings. They treat themselves with cakes and cookies, while appearing to yearn to escape, dressing for nights out on the town. This balance is one we have all had to seek in the past year as we have been confined to our homes. And now, as we come out of this time, and world continues to open up and return to the way it was before, we are negotiating anew. This is an ongoing investigation as our relationship to space and home is again reimagined. Dello continues to explore the tension between loneliness and self-
Eleanor Scicchitano is an independant curator and writer based in Adelaide, South Australia.
|Notes to Self|