Paul YORE<br/>
<em>The evacuation of Mallacoota</em> (2021) <!-- (install shot) --><br />

found fabrics, painted fabric, fibre-tipped pen on cotton, beads, buttons, metal, plastic, metallic fabric (fringing)<br />
169.8 x 288.6 cm<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021<br />
2021.778<br />
© Paul Yore

Paul Yore The Evacuation of Mallacoota

In 2021 the National Gallery of Victoria acquired a pertinent mixed-media work by Gippsland-based artist Paul Yore. The Evacuation of Mallacoota was made in response to the severe Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20 that raged throughout Australia, tragically leading to mass-evacuations, devastation to flora, fauna and civic infrastructure, and death. A visually dense and large-scale work, The Evacuation of Mallacoota plays up to the grandiosity of European and colonial painting traditions only to subvert these measures of conveying authority by appealing to a camp and playful sense of frivolity and queer defiance. In keeping with Yore’s expanded practice, the work layers a vast array of found materials and references to directly respond to a specific subject – in this instance the climate crisis – while the field of seemingly unrelated information invites speculation on how the subject intersects with broader issues facing contemporary Australian society.

Yore completed his studies in painting, archaeology and anthropology at Monash University in 2010. He is recognised for his multidisciplinary practice that includes embroidery, appliquéd quilts, banners, collage and installation through which he explores the politics of images, art history, religion, neo-liberal capitalism, celebrity, popular culture and queerness. The Evacuation of Mallacoota utilises appliqué, assemblage and collage to layer imagery and text onto recycled fabric sourced from thrift shops and hard rubbish. As seen in many of Yore’s appliqué, collage and installation pieces, the work purposefully presents an almost overwhelming amount of detail that the artist sees as reminiscent of the visual excess of the post-internet media environment. Honing in on details, The Evacuation of Mallacoota features several art historical sources, including photographs from a homoerotic book, ancient Egyptian funerary art, and Blue Nudes by Henri Matisse, which are deliberately mixed in with popular culture iconography such as The Wiggles, Winnie the Pooh and Tweety Bird. Taking cues from Dadaism and Punk, Yore’s repurposing of materials, images and text embeds issues such as the Black Summer disaster within a wider network of forces and interpolates the hidden histories held within repurposed items.

Yore uses idioms, non-sequiturs and quotes as a tool for building hybrid and even destabilised narratives. In The Evacuation of Mallacoota text ranges from catchcries, such as ‘FREEDOM OR DEATH’ that has its origins in the French Revolution and was later appropriated by American patriots, to more quippy statements such as ‘THE STARS shine for us all’, ‘TOO BAD’ and ‘HISTORY TIME’, as well as common contemporary acronyms like ‘IDKWTD’ (I don’t know what to do). Conflicting text and imagery introduce humour and satire, which Yore considers as a site of queer defiance with political cache. He often refers to the radical performativity of drag queens and the tendency for marginalised peoples to use humour and quick wit as a tool to de-escalate violent or uncomfortable situations.

The Evacuation of Mallacoota was first shown at the NGV in the exhibition QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection. Throughout his practice, Yore directly engages with queer as a subject matter, as well as upholding methods for disrupting dominant cultural values. The latter can be cited in the laborious process of embroidery and appliqué, which Yore considers a site of resistance against the pace of capitalism, while working within traditions once contained to the domains of ‘women and craft’ rather than ‘Art’ resisting against the pervasive forces of heteronormativity and hierarchy. To repurpose, layer and subvert across materials, language, mediums and genres is both a principle and a statement that embraces fluid identities, hybrid histories and the discerning process of queer worldmaking.

Sophie Prince, Curatorial Project Officer, Australian and First Nations Art