In A House and Its Head, Aleana Egan uses materials including metal, plaster, paint and household objects to create sculptures and installations. Numerous fabrics, including silks, linens, canvas, noil and dyed Indian cotton, are also employed throughout this body of work. These disparate materials are grouped into sculptural arrangements, at times bearing semblance to architectural forms or domestic interiors.
Suspended from the ceiling of the gallery is a canopy-like structure. Its copper and steel frame is articulated over several layers, with elegant curvilinear detailing along the frieze, and visually anchored by a corresponding metal structure at its base, dressed with silk. Elsewhere, fragments and objects are collected within transparent containers: floral patterned collars and wool crêpe sleeves are gathered like artefacts in a walnut vitrine; a Citroën 2CV engine is encased in a Perspex box near two concrete bollards. The artist’s signature linear wall pieces appear tauter, and more sculptural, rendered with layers of plaster and paint.
Egan’s intuitive mode of expression is informed by sustained engagement with literary texts, and this reading informs the development of her work. The exhibition is titled after Ivy Compton-Burnett’s modernist novel A House and Its Head (1935), a sharp observation of the politics of domestic life, driven by dialogue: the novel’s distinct voices, and not descriptive prose, reveal the interiority of its characters. Rather than directly representing this source material, Egan uses such texts as an entryway – absorbing moods and tones they evoke, and inviting us to consider tensions between talk and silence central to the texts.
These literary reference points are supplemented by the artist’s precise observations of her surroundings, including architectural details, items of clothing, photographs and other fragments of lived experience. Egan’s use of fabric in this exhibition harbours a strong associative potential, while the familiarity of her everyday materials (from firebricks to hand-painted plaster) spark connections with domestic and suburban environments. These additional layers of meaning, deeply rooted in personal experience and therefore inevitably specific to each viewer, have the potential to shape our encounters with art.