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Exhibition: 'Where the Wild Boys Are'

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When he was a child, Paul O’Connor never wanted to grow up to become an astronaut, firefighter or doctor. He wanted to be a werewolf. In children’s stories, he never idolised the prince, the huntsman or the hero. Rather, he was fascinated by the beasts. Paul has always been drawn to rogues and outsiders, those living life on the edge and forging their own path. In Where the Wild Boys Are, Paul invites us into his world and introduces us to a cast of characters he’s cherished since his earliest years.

Growing up in the beachside town of Safety Bay, Western Australia, Paul would ride around on his BMX belting out the lyrics to his favourite songs. He admired the enigmatic frontmen of The Village People, Pet Shop Boys, KISS, Adam and the Ants, Culture Club and Duran Duran. There were the mysterious merpeople of Madonna’s ‘Cherish’ music video; a pivotal moment in Paul’s coming of age. He remembers the Marlboro Man, larger than life, smiling at him from magazines and billboards. He remembers nights at the drive-in watching American Werewolf in London, Grease and Can't Stop the Music. These are the figures that have made their way into his cornucopia of ceramic delights, all emblazoned with nods to pop culture, fantasy and queer iconography.

Paul’s objects are loaded with contemporary references but appear like ancient artefacts. He utilises a limited palette of earth-toned glazes and a distinctive hand-built style to give the works a time-worn patina. Crude patterns and drawings are scratched into their surfaces. Their edges warp, crack and fray. Shattered porcelain inlays are hastily reassembled. A dusty black glaze pools in the cracks and crevices of each piece, like encrusted dirt from their time buried underground. Like an archaeologist, Paul unearths and preserves these relics of his own history; his identity.

In this body of work, Paul playfully juxtaposes masculine and feminine, wild and domestic, high art and craft. He takes the typically civilised forms of everyday ceramic wares - plates, bowls, vases and candlesticks - and gives them heads, tails and big dicks. He mixes the ancient and storied medium of clay with stuff from the thrift shop and dollar store, like paper doilies, glass crystals, mirrors, rubber cut-outs and up-cycled glassware. Paul offers us a delicate table setting made wild, beastly and camp; a layered and irreverent homage to the things that shaped him.

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