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Uncanny Life – artifact and identity

13 February, 2018 - 3 March, 2018

Jan Donaldson, The Infant of Prague

Jan Donaldson

13 February – 3 March 2018

Tuesday – Friday 11am to 5pm,
Saturday 12pm to 4pm
admission: Free

These objects serve as a bridge between our hidden and conscious worlds.

Jan Donaldson, The Infant of Prague

Jan Donaldson, The Infant of Prague

Jan Donaldson, The Infant of Prague

The Uncanny Life – artifact and identity exhibition is an extension of the research undertaken for Jan Donaldson’s PhD project and explores the doll/puppet as a cultural icon and artifact.  Including contemporary jewellery, object and sculptural works, the research investigates the doll as not just a plaything, but as an object intimately linked to identity.

Donaldson’s fascination with the uncanny includes experimentation with puppetry and masks and forms an important aspect of the project. These theatrical elements, which include the ability to express identity through movement, allow for the exploration of larger narratives, alluding to the drama and folly of human existence. When inanimate objects are seen to be brought to life, preconceived ideas about the boundaries between life and death blur. These objects serve as a bridge between our hidden and conscious worlds.

Some of the works also reference folk tales and nursery rhymes. Donaldson seeks to recover a more sensual, childlike world, with all its attendant bafflement, shock, raw desire, clumsiness, illusion and disenchantment. Though re-interpretation and the re-telling of folk-lore, contributions to new stories and myths are created and benefit their evolution, culture and dispersion.

The works are displayed in a ‘built room’ installation. Donaldson’s intention is to create an intimate space,  integrating notions of personal place and intimate themes/settings, such as the tomb and the theatre, associated with the prevalence of doll artifacts throughout history and across different cultures.

Individually and collectively the dolls reveal the intimate and the personal. Imbued with both historically generic as well as autobiographical associations – reliquaries of the artist’s own contemporary existence – they come together as a collection of individual artifacts that are at once ‘canny’ and ‘uncanny’ in their creation; objects to show our existence – a trace of self.

Artist, jeweller, maker and teacher for many years, Jan Donaldson studied at RMIT University in Melbourne and holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Fine Art,  Master of Arts (Fine Art), and a Diploma of Fine Art in Gold and Silversmithing.

Donaldson exhibits regularly in Australia and internationally and is a recipient of many awards. Her work ranges in scale from jewellery to large sculptural works and she is known for my use of the figure and text, as well as for her research into the relationships between objects and identity. Donaldson’s recent work explores the relationships between artifacts and identity, provoking us to think more deeply about the doll as a cultural artifact. The research, and her fascination with the uncanny, includes experimentation into the theatrical narratives of puppetry and masks.

Donaldson has been lecturing for over 29 years in Regional Victoria and Melbourne, is a former President of the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia (JMGA) Vic and past editor of Lemel Magazine, the quarterly journal of the JMGA.  She has been an artist in residence and workshop instructor at numerous schools, universities, arts organisations and galleries. Donaldson is a former gallery director and also has extensive experience working on community arts projects.


13 February, 2018
3 March, 2018
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fortyfivedownstairs gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9662 9966
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