My name is Deb Mostert and I am a visual artist working in Brisbane. My art practice involves me using vintage and veteran toys and household objects as subject matter and finding collectors who are willing to let me ‘play’ with their toys is always exciting. Last year I received an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for concept development which enabled me to visit the Powerhouse Museum to view the collection of vintage toys.
I worked with the curator of Transport and Toys, Margaret Simpson, looking through the toys which languished in storage but very rarely ever see the light of day! Margaret allowed me to have a few toys out at a time and as I wasn’t allowed to touch anything myself, I directed her to move them (with the white gloves on!) In this way we set up quite a few scenarios and ‘conversations’ between toys, hinting at narrative and enjoying the potential stories that could emerge, which I then photographed and painted back in my Brisbane studio.
Narratives were in fact plentiful and the potential for stories endless when the static objects were put into relationship with each other. The objects taken from museum storage and played with came into a new existence. Without the interaction they ceased to really exist beyond being merely a record, a sample of what had been.
It struck me how much this is like our lives. We all have a kind of quirky charm begging for animation and interrelation. All the allure, history, and value are meaningless without the spark of interaction. It drew me back to words that animate my life:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Without love our lives are static, our narratives limited and our stories are stifled. In painting these scenes, animating the inert through story, perhaps you’ll sense my hope that there is a way back to reconnect with love at its source.
Additionally, these works represent a continuing desire to look for paradoxes. These paintings show emptied items… forgotten and passed over objects…yet they also show the wear of service, of play, they hold memory and they startle us with recognition. They are at once both sacred and banal. They are painted to look real but they are obviously not. They are worthless to some and at the same time precious to a collector.
The works can be read in many different ways as the objects become reflectors of the experiences of the viewer. My works aim to reveal the narratives that can lurk beneath the humble surfaces of plastic, porcelain and tin.
I painted 21 works on plywood, to allow the humility of the toys to be explored. I also made 7 larger oil on canvas paintings. The entire show can be viewed at here.
I really enjoyed my (all too brief) time in the collection store and must thank Margaret for her patience in setting things up for me which enabled me to access a truly delightful collection.