Wood smoke floats gently over the harbour from a far corner of Cockatoo Island. Under an open-sided shelter, fire is contained in steel drums. Perched above them on a metal lattice are ceramic cups of varying size, their sides licked brown and black by the flames.
Shortly after I enter the space, two men walk in arm in arm. One is tracing a path with a white cane while the other is talking him through the exhibition. The man explaining the art is in his forties or fifties, and talks like someone who sees exhibitions occasionally, but is not accustomed to putting them into words.
If you look at one of Steaphan Paton’s works and can’t quite imagine how it was made, that’s good. Don’t ask, just enjoy not knowing and embrace the theatre of the object. To date, Paton’s practice encompassed a wide range of materials and processes, but fundamentally, he considers all his works to be forms of sculpture.
The lead image on QAGOMA’s website for Curious Affection is a portrait of the artist, Patricia Piccinini, next to one of her sculptures. The sculpted faces of a woman and the fleshy, ridge-backed child-creature she cradles could almost be real. When contrasted with the artist’s body, though, the blankness of their eyes and a slight waxiness of flesh give them away.
We begin at the end: a funeral. Well-dressed men and women sob, tears running down their cheeks. The camera pans across an open coffin, over the face of a young man. The large church is claustrophobic with pale blooms.
“I met a man who told me he loved my ceramic bin. It took him back to his childhood when him and his friend used to tip them over and use them as cricket wickets. I was tempted to tell him about how I watched a man take a shit in one once in an open field.”