Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 November 2008

Ex De Medici

born 1959

watercolour and gouache on paper

114.0 x 169.0 cm

titled lower left: A cool hand with the Dice / Biggie
inscribed lower left: Family - Mikhail Kalashnikov Automat AKS-74U. Afgan[sic] / Russian War. AKC-74Y(Cryllic) [sic] Osama’s dolly X CSIRO specimen. Unclassified Tortricidae. PNG (Western Highlands) Mt Hagen Ranges; Murmur Pass 8700’. 1961 W. W. Brandt.

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $52,800 (inc. BP) in Auction 6 - 26 November 2008, Melbourne

Commissioned from the artist
Private collection, Canberra

Catalogue text

With her vast and varied oeuvre incorporating experimental performance, installation, photography, painting, drawing and tattooing, eX de Medici has earned a reputation as one of the most brilliant enigmas of the Australian art world. In 2001, she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra to create a portrait of rock band Midnight Oil, and the following year, was awarded the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery's prestigious 'National Works on Paper Prize' for her large and complex watercolour, Red (Colony), 1999-2000. Her work has featured in solo exhibitions such as Soft Steel at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2003) and eX de Medici at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (2004), as well as numerous group shows, including the recent Contemporary Commonwealth at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2006).

Since the late 1990s in particular, de Medici has become widely acclaimed for her monumental, fastidiously executed watercolours and drawings, such as A Cool Hand with the Dice / Biggie 2007, which juxtapose emblems of power and oppression with motifs encapsulating the fragility of life. Paying homage to the traditions of both natural history illustration associated with the scientific classification of the world (specifically the exquisite taxonomic drawings of Ferdinand Bauer in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) and seventeenth-century Dutch vanitas painting, her works may be interpreted as contemporary momento mori, reminding us of our mortality and the futility of worldly pursuits.

Recurring motifs such as skulls, ammunition and the historically-loaded emblem of the swastika elucidate eX de Medici's often controversial denunciation of the troubling currents of our times. Issues of power and control are symbolised here by the gun with its specific allusions to the Soviet-Afghan War and Osama bin Laden. As the artist observes of the present subject, invariably 'the gun is meant for one thing and one thing only. They afford people a sense of invulnerability, but in the end the State employs guns to do the final work. So the gun, in my work, is always about controlling something, about the final word.'1 Thus, with their painstaking detail and seductive, visceral quality, de Medici's compositions invite the viewer to contemplate a world where pleasant, alluring surfaces conceal - and paradoxically reveal - disturbing intentions and forces.

1. Ex de Medici cited in Boyd, C., 'The order beneath the skin', The Weekend Australian Financial Review, 17 - 18 April 2004, p. 32