Pear—version number 2 by George Baldessin, placed like ripe fallen fruit in the forecourt of the National Gallery of Australia, displays the artist’s abiding interest in the theatrical potential of art. A deeply layered work, it harks back to 1960s Pop Art and that movement’s fascination with replicated everyday objects on a grand scale in public spaces. But Baldessin’s seven pears are so much more than a monumental, exacting fabrication of objects. The title itself, a pun on the word perversion, provides a hint of the work’s many nuances. In some respects it is simply a natura morte, or still life, replete with the connotations of beauty and decay, both physical and moral, loaded within that genre.
Baldessin created the work while he was deeply engrossed in the complex Banquet for no eating series, which frequently contained pears as an emblem for food. Pear—version number 2 may be regarded as the culmination and embodiment of the ideas of denial, desire, eroticism and penitence percolating though the series and indeed central to the tradition of natura morte.
Mythological and Biblical concepts of metamorphosis, whereby the body is transfigured as either reward or punishment, held a profound interest for Baldessin. Here we observe the transformation of the female body into the form of pears, which—as mouth-watering and ripe as they are—can never be eaten. Yet this coupling of denial and the desire for intimacy is the source of the work’s magnetic power.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014