Love, Loss, Masculinity and the Absurdity of the Human Condition

Journal of Australian Ceramics
November 2011
Megan Fizell

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Through the dripping brushstrokes upon the canvas, the film 'Barry in the Wings' by Todd Fuller, maps out the story of a tutu-wearing, pot-bellied, bald man who trips and falls upon the stage during his big performance. Throughout the narrative established in the film, Barry's stumble is the focal point - illustrated twice on canvas and displayed as the closing frame in the hand-drawn film. This poignant moment was further realised by Fuller in a ceramic sculpture of the same name. The white earthenware figure, painted with ink reminiscent of the dripping pigment used in the film, sits on the floor with bent knees and downcast eyes. The sculpture exemplifies the narrative layering of Fuller's oeuvre spanning drawing, animation and sculpture.

Fuller's work is drawn from his own experiences of growing up as an untraditional Australian male. His physiognomy has little in common with balding Barry as, according to Fuller, "they are fat and bald in a shallow attempt to remove them far away from myself". He concedes that all the characters are in fact autobiographical and that by using his story ?as honestly as possible?, he hopes to "make something that is genuine and authentic".

The storylines in Fuller's recent solo exhibition, Tense, at Brenda May Gallery, Sydney, originated predominantly from his experiences as an artist in residence at Australia's Storrier/Onslow Studio at the Cité Internationale Des Arts, Paris, a travelling scholarship awarded by the National Art School. The 'Tin Man' narrative features Parisian streetscapes and two lonely characters that encapsulated Fuller's sense of isolation in a foreign country. The film was created on antique paper that was extremely affordable and accessible in Paris. Fuller believes that any narrative or story is dense with readings and layers and ?to create a story over the top of someone else's narrative is simulating this idea in a visual sense?. The narrative layering is continued into Fuller?s sculptural work with the inclusion of one of his films playing on an iPod secreted into the belly of several of the figures. The carefully woven stories, brimming with love, loss, anxiety and isolation, are clearly translated into his emotive sculptural works, complete with rough edges and bearing the marks of the artist?s hand and heart- once seen, they are not easy to forget.