Josephine Cachemaille’s practice is dark yet playful. It juxtaposes the aesthetic look, form and meaning of found objects with the influence of the often unacknowledged (yet seemingly all-pervasive) self-help industry, which aspires to ‘help you to help yourself’.
For Cachemaille the making of each work involves physical explorations into thinking, communicating and relating. Her loaded objects and paintings are part of an ongoing set of questions about the ubiquity of positive psychology and tendencies related to magical thinking; beliefs that she recognises within herself, yet openly challenges.
By pairing her witty sculptures with dark and striking paintings, Cachemaille brings a sculptural, almost 3-dimensional, aspect to all her works. The highly representational paintings, as they loom over the objects, also highlight the purposeful nature of the rough-rendering of the sculptures, developing a compelling juxtaposition of slapdash with precision.
Many of Cachemaille’srecent paintings have been renderings of single crystals of ironpyrite. Also known as ‘fool’s gold’, iron pyrite is regarded in new-age crystal theory as an ‘attractor’ of positive energy. Cachemaille reproduces these forms exquisitely, capturing every detail yet excluding time and place, to offer a beautifully crafted, one-pointed image to the viewer. By removing any context, excepting their dense black backdrops,Cachemaille foregrounds this symbolic aspect in her work while still allowing multiple readings. Left without scale or any orienting features we ask: Are we in space? Is this past catastrophe or future doom? We do not need to know that the subject is hugely enlarged, painstakingly (and worshipfully) painted, to know that it is imbued with significance.
Walking into a complete exhibition of Cachemaille’s works is an immersive, powerful experience for the viewer. On one hand we are faced with an unnatural feeling as if we have entered something dark and outside of our control. Yet, once grounded, we begin to search for something more within, something symbolic; something we feel we understand, or are comfortable with; or are we searching for our self-belief?
The images and forms are composed as clues, and we are given a choice on how to read them. This process of the viewer bringing themselves to the work creates a new dialogue about interpretations of meaning and symbolism. Are we made of our choices? Or the things we make; what we do; the positions we take? Cachemaille poses her questions to us, but does not provide definitive answers.
Composed of diverse pieces such a glove, parts of an old trophy or a used paint brush, Cachemaille’s found object constructions feature an intricate array of possible meanings. These speak to human nature and the way we look for signifiers to piece together, mentally and physically, what is before us. For example in Yes (2013) we see before us a trophy, and the positives associated with this. But the trophy is burned and blackened, made from broom handles and chunks of wood. The hand reaches; but are we seeing aspiration or desperation? Is it a symbol for striving for more; a hand up (pick me!); beseeching rescue; or ‘Yes, I have made it’?
The need to be first, or to be noticed in our chosen field and what we use to get there, is important to most of us; and this nee does not go unnoticed by Cachemalle. In the work Seraphinewe can begin to question the artist’s own relationship with her tool of choice, in this case brushes, and the connection of the idea and the action of making a work of art. By calling out the familiar first name of a revered New Zealand artist, Cachemaille engages in an evocation of Seraphine Pick’s status and recognition. Is this a vague (or purposeful) attempt to attract these properties of success to herself? Or is it simply a nod of respect to a favoured artist, the beginning of a new conversation that tactfully places her into New Zealand Art History?
Creation begins with a wish, a desire to do something, to make something, to see beyond the immediate reality. Seamlessly providing us with an unbroken view of the whole, we cannot help but be drawn into Cachemaille’s practice. She combines sensitivity with wit as each of her works balance a number of different physical and emotional characteristicstoleave us pondering where our beliefs lie,and to question what is really taking place in front of us.
Essay by Justin Jade Morgan
Education: Post Graduate Diploma in Art and Design, Auckland University of Technology; Diploma in Visual Arts, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology; Bachelor of Arts, University of Otago
Awards/Distinctions: The National Contemporary Art Award - Merit Award winner (2016); The Wallace Art Awards - Jury Award winner (2016) ;The Wallace Art Awards - Finalist (2014), Best Visual Arts Award, Dunedin Fringe Festival (2008)
Collections: The James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland
Public Exhibitions: Testing Testing, G Space Gallery, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (2014); Cruel City, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2013); Recover, G Space Gallery, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (2011); Artist in Focus, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2010); Are You Positive?, Corridor Gallery, Nelson (2010); Far Far Away: Romance, Anxiety and the Uncertainty of Place, Hokianga Art Gallery (2009); Home Away from Home, Dunedin Fringe Festival (2008); Hometown installation, Nelson Arts Festival (2007); Home Away from Home, Nelson Arts Festival (2006); Fine, Shed 11, Wellington (2006, 2005); Undercurrent: contemporary emerging artist’s exhibition, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2006); Project (collaboration with Yvette Byrd), The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2005); no space (collaboration with Sharon Hall), The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (2004); Graduate group exhibition, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson (1996)
Publications/Articles: ‘Hex induction hour’ by Virginia Were, Art News New Zealand, Summer 2013, pp 104-107; ‘What’s Next?’ by Rachel Ingram, Art Collector: 2013 Special Edition – Auckland Art Fair, Aug 2013, pg 15; Cruel City Exhibition Catalogue, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, Nelson, 2013; Far Far Away: Romance, Anxiety and the Uncertainty of Place Exhibition Catalogue, Hokianga Art Gallery, 2009