Mixed media on canvas, February 2022
60cm x 45cm x 4cms
It’s become a family tradition to make a pilgrimage on a late January evening at the end of a beach summer holiday to Bell’s Amusements at Corrigan’s Beach Reserve in Batehaven. I have many photos going back over a decade or more from this annual event.
The fun starts with the kids recounting their favorite memory from previous trips. “Oh remember when we got to stay on the jumping castle for hours because it was raining so hard that everyone else went home?”, Oby says, “Or that time when we went with the Bhutanese and Kesa and his cousin went on No Limit and then one of the adults threw up after going on the Music Trip”, replies Eleanor. “I remember the first time I did No Limit”, says Zeb, “It wasn’t really that scary”.
The recounting is as important as the photos for imbedding the memories and a sense of time and place. It also helps to embed a sense of belonging and shared history, which might not always be accurate but seems to give everyone much comfort.
The kid’s relationship to the side show has changed over time. I watch on now as all the teens in the prime of spotty youth size each other up and wander around in well made-up, matching miniskirts clusters and the swagger of the boys competing for the girl’s attention. It was the same in my day when I was one of those girls.
I think I relate to the carnival because it reminds of my childhood and bridges the gap between generations. A sideshow certainly has an old world or otherworldly, dreamlike (some would say nightmarish) quality. This is really apparent in a themed amusement park like Dreamworld or Wet & Wild, where reality is suspended, and you are asked to believe momentarily in Disney princesses or strange mechanical interpretations of a Thunderbolt or Hurricane. In Bell’s Amusements, I feel a direct link to a time before social media, PS4’s, video games or even TV. It’s not sophisticated fun, but the sideshow always felt old and belonging to another time, even when I was young.
From an aesthetic point of view, I also love a carnival, amusement park, side show or circus. I love the garishness of all those contrasting primary colors, the outdated imagery and old-fashioned lettering painted on the side of the rides. I love all the neon and the quality of the light that falls on the kid’s faces as they tumble about screaming with excitement on the Cha-cha or enjoying the simple pleasure of eating a Dagwood Dog and Fairy floss.
In “Cupped” I’ve tried to create that dreamlike, remembered feeling. The numbers on the cups suggestive of an age remembered from afar. The figure in the cup on the left of the picture is looking towards his children in the other cup or perhaps his own childhood.
The notion of being “cupped” also suggests a feeling of being enveloped in the moment or in an emotion such as love. To be ‘cupped’ by something implies that you are cared for.
I’ve also used an actual coffee cup to make a cup in the painting of the ride which depicts a cup for no reason at all except that it amused me. And coffee cups should be reused.