Charles Nodrum 2005

Conspicuous consumption may be less obvious today than in the past but if the signs are subtler, the facts are still there and cars have long been recognised as markers of economic prestige. Sadie Chandler’s initial passion was for Mustangs whose sculptural form and macho image lent itself readily to her purpose. As time went by she took up others - luxury sedans (albeit 1950s American), limos - even hearses, which provided an unexpected surprise, not only in their unusual shape but in their moral double-take on the vanity of human wishes: whatever we drive in our lives, on our last journey we are driven by a liveried chauffeur in a big, shiny and expensive car. And it is not insignificant that one of her favourite genres has long been the 17th Century Vanitas where a tense note was struck between material opulence, protestant caution and restrained satire.

The initial series of cars emerged from her Melt series series where amorphous shapes, derived from splashes and puddles, were jigsawed in MDF, smoothed and spray painted in grey automotive paint. The first cars were also simply cut out, and either spray painted in duco or hand painted in flat acrylic - both in monochrome. The present series has the features and details we expect to see in a car - widows, mud guards, wheels and so on - painted in an abbreviated, almost comic book style. Angles vary - from the straightforward, front back or side view, to the diagonal viewpoints, often derived from publicity shots. In monochrome these tend to disguise the standard shape of the car, which then only becomes ”readable” with the aid of the in-painted features.

There is also a personal dimension to Sadie Chandler's relationship to the car. After living for a decade on Parramatta Road (with one of the highest traffic densities - and hence, presumably, pollution levels - in Australia) her enthusiasm for the car is increasingly tinged with foreboding and resentment. The visual upside of these cars she loves to paint has a discomforting downside (on ears and lungs), which has played no small part in virtually driving her out of her studio. So this exhibition is both a “Hail” to the cars that have made themselves the stars of the show and a “Farewell” to both the place and the pollution, which have played their part in her life for the past ten years.