Vivienne Shark Lewitt
Vivienne SHARK LEWITT
The game of love and chance 1986
oil on canvas
90 x 120.5 cm
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2011, TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
For the past three and a half decades, Vivienne Shark LeWitt’s astute wit and subversive humour have underpinned her discursive and allegorical paintings which pointedly, and at times poignantly, reveal the peculiarity, complexity and absurdity of the human condition.
Drawing upon both art historical and literary sources, the artist subtly interrogates past traditions, quoting different elements in ironic combinations which confront and confound the viewer with their ambiguous and enigmatic narratives.
Tellingly, the title of Shark LeWitt’s painting The game of love and chance (1986) is derived from a comedy of manners written by the French playwright Pierre de Marivaux in 1730, in which identities are exchanged, roles are reversed and social conventions are transgressed. In this work, the word ‘love’ clearly references the tender and intimate exchange between two lovers in the foreground, however the reference to ‘chance’ introduces an element of uncertainty, while ‘game’ undermines the sense of certitude and sincerity by suggesting the nature of human attraction and attachment is arbitrary and a mere diversion for our amusement. The artist stages the scene in an idyllic, cultivated landscape strongly reminiscent of works by Rococo artists of the 18th century such as Antoine Watteau, whose elegant parkland settings were often the site for the enactment of romantic liaisons. Situated behind the incongruously modern looking couple, a barefoot clown and musician cast expectant glances stage left, perhaps in anticipation of the arrival of another person, while a strange, devilish figure leans forward over the table. This impish character, derived from the famous engraving Le stryge (aka The vampire) (1853) by Charles Meryon which depicts a gargoyle overlooking Paris from its vantage point atop Notre-Dame, is a recurring feature of other paintings by Shark LeWitt from this period including The look of love (1982), Charles Meryon the voyeur 1827-1868. La belle et la bête (1983) and Goodness always triumphs over evil (1984). In this later painting, the creature, now wingless, nonchalantly gazes at a tabletop in an expression of boredom and ennui, perhaps all too familiar with the predictability of human desires and the ultimate fleetingness and folly of our affairs.
- Catalogue entry for Vivienne Shark LeWitt, The omen, ‘That wascally wabbit’ (1987), Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006. URL: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/364.1988/, accessed on 31 May 2016.