Fair and gay goes Lent away 2005


Mixed media on aluminium laminate
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Purchased 2006 with funds from the Dunedin City Council

This work is a stand-alone piece from Julia Morison’s Gobsmack and Flabbergast (2005) work in seventeen sections. It was originally exhibited within a continuous and integrated panel of grey and taupe ribbon that wove around the walls of the gallery space. Each image is titled after the name of a game, selected from 216 carnivalesque games listed in an English translation of the 16th-century text Gargantua by the French Renaissance writer François Rabelais (circa 1483-1553). Fair and gay goes Lent away, which could also be translated as Fair and softly passeth Lent, has been surmised to refer to a kind of call and response children’s game, perhaps like a very early version of the game  ‘I Spy’ or ‘Hide and Seek’ that was played during Lent. However, in the context of Morison’s work, the lists of games present us with a set of linguistic curiosities, rather than any kind of illustration of the text. 

Rabelais is known for his broad and bawdy humour and Gobsmack and Flabbergast could easily portray something of this quality. There is a physicality to the work, with pinkish tones and fleshy forms. The viewer is confronted with an expansive twisted length of the beautiful and bizarre, a gross corporeality and perfectly restrained design sensibility. An elegant composition that hinges on these tensions, the symmetry of Fair and gay goes Lent away creates a generative energy that originates from the centre and pushes at the border of the frame.

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