Linda Marrinon All Things Contemporary
The National 2019: New Australian Art
Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2019*





In the French village of Albert the skyline is fractured by a strange sight; a woman leans out from the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières, as if caught mid-dive, holding a child above her head. The dome of the church is a bombed-out remain, but the woman holds fast. The horizontal fissure she makes in time and space marks the army’s path toward the upper reaches of the River Somme, where the world was ending in myriad ways. From below, passing soldiers recognise her serene visage and the chubby child. Word spreads among the hope-starved troops on both sides; if the Leaning Virgin of Albert – as she would come to be known – fell, then the war would be won either way. And so it was that this precarious monument became a finite clock in a world of interminable horrors.

For The National 2019, Linda Marrinon resurrects the Leaning Virgin of Albert and once more starts the clock. If Woman of Albert, France, 1916 (2019) appears carefully picked from the ruins then that’s because it has been. Marrinon’s statuaries and ceramic tableaux portray historical figures and archetypes drawn from the fathomless archive of our times. Consider the span of this random list of her recent subjects: Daughter, Revolutionist, Mother, Tammy Wynette, a Patriot in uniform, a Cowboy with a rope, the Greek potter Exekias, Dame Joan Sutherland, a Winter bride, MC Hammer, Convict Mary Wade and the architect Adolf Loos. Time is a condition with which Marrinon freely plays.

Coincidentally, the village of Albert makes an appearance in ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ by the Argentine writer and erstwhile librarian Jorge Luis Borges. The story anticipates our contemporary condition; a globally networked world in which chronologies are assembled and undone at will and where little exists outside the mind.*In the story, the character Stephen Albert speculates about the ways in which a book can be infinite. He imagines ‘a cyclic volume, a circular one. A book whose last page was identical with the first, a book which had the possibility of continuing indefinitely’. Or a work transmitted between generations in which ‘each new individual adds a chapter or corrects with pious care the pages of his elders’.Albert’s speculations mirror a broader concern shared by both Borges and Marrinon (herself a librarian of sorts): the logic of Time.

Marrinon’s works in painted and tinted plaster, porcelain and clay are contemporary relics – at once strikingly new and, somehow, equally old. We might imagine her as an acolyte of Schopenhauer, who wrote, ‘The world is my idea’; that is to say, she privileges what her eyes see and her hands feel above all other realities. Marrinon works backwards, she smears and whips stony terracotta like icing on a cake and she makes all things contemporary.

One hundred fast years have passed since the day the Virgin fell in 1918 and we might ask, what hasn’t changed? All possibilities occur in some branch of reality. But as she leans before us now, we must ask, what new world will break her fall?


*First published in The National 2019: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales,Carriageworks, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2019.


[*] ‘He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us …’; Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ in Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, New Directions, New York, 1964, p.52.
[†] ibid, p.49.
[‡] ‘what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as idea, i.e., only in relation to something else’; Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, vol.1, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., London/Project Gutenberg, 1909/2011, p.25, retrieved 2 October 2018, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38427/38427-pdf.pdf.