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by Paul Neeson
posted 14/05/2021

Review: Lina Tesoriero’s Musings at the Waverley Library Galleries

Reviewed by Anthony Frater of Arts Wednesday

Lina Tesoriero: Decadence

Local Bondi artist Lina Tesoriero’s exhibition and sale entitled Musings, is on now at Waverley Library Galleries until 27 May. Lina has been included in a number of group shows, but this is her first solo show. 

The works featured are a combination of paint (acrylic and watercolour), oil pastel, ink, charcoal and graphite on archival paper. There are references to a number of art periods: Classical, Baroque, Expressionism, Abstraction and Pop, even Dada and Cubism. Thematically the focus is on the idea or role of the muse as human subject in art and how the artist portrays them. It is a reflection also of the inspirational and even aspirational relationship between them. 

Lina Tesoriero: No Longer a Lone Ranger

By appropriating and inserting familiar images of the human figure – in this case everyone from Marilyn Monroe, Caravaggio’s Bacchus, Titian’s Venus, Matisse’s ladies, Raphael’s cherubs to Nolan’s Ned Kelly, and The Lone Ranger – the artist takes her muses out of their original landscape, and thus context and meaning, and places them in her own playful at times lush landscapes and in so doing is able to subvert original meaning. For example, in questioning binary gender roles in, “No Longer a Lone Ranger”, Tesoriero takes one of art history’s, and film’s, most enduring subjects: Ned Kelly (is he painted) and The Lone Ranger (is it collage) respectively. She places them in front of a painted background of abstract cross-hatched textures, washes and slashes of blues, yellows and green, wherein lies a forest adorned with sprays of wattle, and turns them into two handsome roguish grooms preparing perhaps for marriage to each other – the Lone Ranger and Ned are lonely no more! These ageing adored icons are dragged, not necessarily kicking and screaming into the twenty first century where marriage between men is now almost mundane.

Lina Tesoriero: Is it Worth It?

And so to what is painted and what is collage. Intrigued by the way Brett Whitley seamlessly integrated collage within his paintings, Tesoriero became inspired. Her collage work is more than a match for the incandescent brilliance of the late great Whitely for it is difficult to determine what is applied and what is not, or, what is collage and what is not. We get the distinct impression almost immediatley that the artist is more than capable of painting her photo-realistic subjects but we stand looking at the work from all angels trying to figure out if the figure, the muse, is painted or stuck on. It is a seamless application as she paints her applied subjects into the work by carefully painting over and around the edges, building the paint up around and in some cases even on or over what is applied.

The artist is also playing with the meaning of words, in this case muse and musing – a noun and a verb respectively; semantically one very different to the other but somehow in this case deeply related: one an intangible internal reflection, meditation or contemplation; the other tangible and external, a visible, manifest ever-present source of inspiration stimulating passion and motivation. But the roles change, for the muse can be engaged in both, or perhaps also even the artist herself.

Lina Tesoriero: A Conversation

Daughters of our omnipotent, omniscient Zeus, the Muses in Greek mythology were nine heavenly goddesses dwelling on Mount Olympus who symbolised the arts and science. But where there is light there is also darkness for Tesoriero’s work raises questions around the idea of who is being represented and why and who benefits the most. Our minds are caught up with today’s schemes and reckonings and we  sense inequality, or metaphorical abuse. Societal ideas see the muse/artist relationship as an artistic partnership typically perceived as hyper-romantic, a relationship between an artist – who is  generally an older male portrayed often as a tortured creative – and his muse who is most often always a beautiful young woman who provides inspiration but has little creative input, is but simply adored and worshipped as if an object, albeit a decorative one of desire and want. It’s an idea therefore worth subverting, worth musing upon, worth exploring. The work is sensitive, it’s astute and considered, it’s art as art and it’s done here in the most clever, at times sumptuous, witty and artfully poetic way by local Bondi artist Lina Tesoriero. The exhibition runs until 27 May at the Waverley Library Galleries. 

Listen live to Anthony’s interview with Lina on Wednesday 19 May at 1030-1200.

To Listen to Lina chatting with Anthony, click the blue box above.