Review :: eX de Mecidi’s Need Head

May 23rd 2011


Before I start this week’s review, I’ve got something to admit: I’ve never really thought of tattoo artists as bona fide artists before. Instead, the tattoo artist in my mind is a slightly overweight man in bikie-style gear named Steve, who sports multiple piercings and sleeves. However, the new exhibit at Sullivan+Strumpf proved me completely wrong.

The elusive Australian female artist eX de Medici’s new collection, Need Head, chronicles her time spent in the Solomon Islands and Iran as Australia’s official war artist. Coming from a tattoo art background the highly private artist uses eX as her moniker for her intricately detailed watercolour works. This war-themed exhibit features a series empty soldiers’ helmets from different wars and nationalities. The haunting masks stand alone in bare white canvases not only humanising soldiers with universal experience but also standing as omens of where the head that once filled these helmets has ended up. eX’s magnum opus of the exhibit is Cure for Pain, a work so expressively detailed and vast I didn’t know where to start looking. At over four metres in length the work is a confused jumble of overflowing flowers and flora, empty helmets, weaved with guns and bullets, protected by birds peeping out from the most unexpected places acting as sentinels over their military booty.

eX uses her tattoo influences to produce extreme detail, made all the more impressive by the tricky medium of watercolour. There are definite Asian influences, and the closer you examine Cure for Pain the more you can see this. You can bet that you will never fully understand her entire work; the array of symbols is astounding, from flower choices to tattoo references. One of my favourites was the little wind-up birds representing the Twitter icon, standing for the modern flippancy of war and information overload.

Tattoo artistry is a tricky business and who are we to draw the line of what art is and how you choose to express yourself? We never really think about the people behind the tattoos, but isn’t the body just another canvas? After seeing eX de Medici’s exhibit, no one can deny the skill and depth these artists are expected to reach. Her poignant exhibit is an excess visual feast of military as the threat of death contrasted against the natural beauty of life.

What: Need Head, eX de Medici

Where: Sullivan+Strumpf, 799 Elizabeth St, Zetland

When: Tues – Fri, 10am – 6pm; Sat, 11am – 5pm; until May 21st

How much: Free to look, not so free to buy


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