Identity and Community vs Non-Place – Darren McGinn

As you head down the Surfcoast, the rampant development of sprawling housing estates cannot be overlooked – it hits you in the eye. With towns on the Bellarine Peninsula and along the Surfcoast experiencing phenomenal growth, debate about how to retain a town’s identity and sense of community has become intense. Darren McGinn taps into this quandary with his sculptural and photographic works in the exhibition, Identity and Community versus Non-Place.


Saw Horse Dreaming,
Darren McGinn.

McGinn explores the increasingly urbanised Australian landscape and the bland housing developments (or non-places) that have begun to dominate the environment. Using extraordinarily precise carpentry, as well as photography, McGinn focuses on the construction of the featureless suburban home. The repetition of framework and roof line in Urban Growth Corridor echoes the monotony found in characterless housing estates.


Urban Growth Corridor,
Darren McGinn.

Like the newly constructed ‘hip and valley’ home, McGinn also sees the caravan as symbolic of the Australian search for identity and community. In his appealing yet intriguing ceramic sculpture Nuclear Sheep, McGinn teams the caravan with a trio of sheep, symbolising the ideal nuclear family, i.e. two adults and one child. As McGinn explains, “It references the decline of the extended family that once lived under the one roof. Nowadays it’s more and more houses with less people living in them. This work also references the selfishness and greediness of the ‘take it all’ baby boomer generation.”


Nuclear Sheep, Darren McGinn. (Photo by Robert Colvin.)

Nuclear Sheep
(detail), Darren McGinn. (Photo by Robert Colvin.)

McGinn interprets our relationship with our increasingly urbanised environment and he explores the ways in which we seek identity. He is inspired by other artists with a passion for social commentary, particularly in regard to our suburban nation: artists such as Carmell Wallace, Terry Davies, John Brack, Robyn Boyd, Bernard Salt, Dame Edna Everage, Dorrit Black, David Ralph, Howard Arkley, Chris McAuliffe, Alex Danko and Greer Honeywell.

McGinn began his art studies nearly 30 years ago, completing a Bachelor of Education (Arts & Crafts) in 1984, a Graduate Diploma in Fine Art in 1988, and going on to complete a Master of Arts in 1991. He has worked for many years as a lecturer and teacher of ceramics and sculpture at various academic institutions including the University of Melbourne and Victorian College of the Arts. He recently taught sculpture at The Gordon, during which time he received a Staff Excellence Award in Teaching and Learning. He has received numerous awards for contemporary ceramics including the 2004 Gold Coast International Ceramic Art Award, the 2008 $10,000 Toyota Community Spirit Artist Travel Award and the 3D section of the Williamstown Contemporary Art Prize in 2008.

He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania, and the artwork in this exhibition form part of his thesis.

If you are near the Geelong waterfront over the summer holidays, pop into the exhibition and check out these skilful sculptural works of ceramic and timber.

Identity and Community versus Non-Place is at the Dennys Lascelles Gallery, Deakin University, Geelong (enter off Cunningham St) and is on until the 28 January 2011. The gallery is closed for the Christmas break, reopening 4th January.

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