Renee So populates her works with figures drawn from clashing cultural sources: Victorian top hats and facial hair, the pantaloons of Dutch and Portuguese traders in 16th- and early 17th-century Japanese paintings, the card tricks and theatrics of traditional magic shows and comedic performances. A recurring feature of her work is the twofaced bearded figure portrayed in Drunken Bellarmine; the topmost face is simultaneously reflected and reversed at the centre of the beard, reminiscent of the ‘king’ and ‘jack’ figures found on playing cards. The ‘Bellarmine’ of the title refers to the stoneware vessels for ale and wine imported from Germany from the 1500s to the 1700s. These were moulded with bearded faces and named after Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542–1621). Severed and slumped over a vertically-striped block, the figure resembles a character from a slapstick comedy, drunkenly lolling in what might be a puddle of wine or its own blood. So’s works are executed using a knitting machine, precisely translating the artist’s line illustrations and flat colour planes into large panels. Although the art of knitting in wool is an ancient one, the staggered lines and blocks the technique creates suggests the pixels of a computer screen.
- Artwork Details: 174 x 124 x 6cm
- Material description: wool, acrylic, oak tray frame
- Credit line: © the artist
- Medium: Textile
- Accession number: ACC23/2011