“I enjoy the ridiculousness of making ‘how to’ books because few people refer to books these days when they want to make something.”
Melbourne artist Anna Hoyle comments ironically on modern society in her latest work Anxious Sponges. The series is currently featured in the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s biennial exhibition National Works on Paper, first established in 1998. The MPRG’s senior art curator Danny Lacy said, “National Works on Paper is one of Australia’s most prestigious awards and acquisitive exhibitions. The exhibition is a microcosm of contemporary artistic practice across wide ranging genres.”
Born in 1968, Hoyle grew up in the heart of the Melbourne city. Hoyle would often walk past replica Andy Warhol posters on Smith Street, Fitzroy. Warhol launched the pop art movement in the 60’s and was also heavily influenced by consumer and popular culture. Hoyle’s works are featured in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne University, La Trobe University, SBS at Federation Square and the University of Queensland to name a few. Hoyle attended Monash university where she received a Masters in Fine Art.
Hoyle told D-Scribe where she derives inspiration to create book paintings. “I always collected books from the 50s and 60s, especially kids’ books. I have a long history of collecting words, phrases, objects and gadgets of our consumer culture. My work is very eclectic and borrows so much from visual culture. The book titles I invent are unique but they too derive from things I see or hear around us, especially things in advertising.” Hoyle pays homage to the era she grew up in through her oeuvre of ‘how to’ book paintings. “My ‘how to’ topics are absurd…I love absurdity and incongruity in art.”
Hoyle incorporates humour and subliminal messages into her pieces. She also comments on current issues in society such as housing affordability. One book title reads ‘Affordable housing for friends and loved ones’ which shows a woman in a bug catcher, ironically saying, if you want to buy a house it will only be big enough for a caterpillar. Each book has its own quirky text: another title written on the piece Smashed Avocado says ‘How to smarten up your investment property with smashed avocado’. Hoyle said this is an observation of “the ridiculous political throwaway comments that really are very ill founded”. Hoyle herself is commenting on real estate developer Tim Gurner. Gurner wrote an article in 2017 telling millennials to stop buying smashed avocado at cafes if they want to afford a house one day.
Hoyle had encouraging advice of her own for millennials. She said, “Reading empowers your imagination like nothing else. It is a deep private space that you share with the ideas of the text and your brain works hard to visualise and realise the content. The screen light of phones can really mess with your eyes, mind and posture.” Hoyle believes there is room for real books in the digital age. “Hard copy books have a highly aesthetic and tactile capacity that digital books cannot compete with.”
Hoyle’s distinct pieces are made using gouache on paper wood panels. Her book covers are retro and a reflection of consumer culture. Hoyle said, “I love to play with books’ purported seriousness and believability in an age of self help, advice, information and misinformation.” Hoyle’s inspiration stems from her “love of text and typeface, being able to combine (her) interest with images and illustration.” The highly intricate and detailed works are funny, absurd and highly aesthetic.
The exhibition will run until September 9.