Lenore Howard

Europe visits her Australian cousin

The statement, "Prince Charming danced all night with Cinderella, yet he did not ask what her name was. How intelligent was he?" sits beneath one of Lenore Howard's oil paintings depicting a floating, luminous dress, while in the shadows Cinderella (or is it poor Europa?) hunches apathetically in her dark, prison-like boat, hardly the embodiment of the polished "beauty" implied by her shapely ball gown.

However axiomatic, Howard's wit in this exhibition is lucidly woven through various styles from realism, to surrealism, to abstraction as she deconstructs the motif of Europa and the Bull and, in doing so, creates her own mythology which responds to urban and political paradigms.

Europa-who, as the legend goes, rode across the sea to Crete on the back of a bull (an incarnation of Zeus), andwhose 'maidenhood' was subsequently 'tumbled'-is now re-incarnated as Europa the feminist, Europa the temptress, Europa the victim, Europa the oppressor. While presenting a woman's perspective, Europa, is detached, nonetheless, from my1hological gender oppositions.

Women are not inherently non-violent: they are traditionally oppressed ... Nor are men inherently violent: they are traditionally and structurally dominant.

This is not to deny the innate differences between male and female energies portrayed in Europa. In fact, more often than not Europa is terrestrial, and her lover/oppressor/victim The Bull is ethereal. Rather, it poses interesting questions on Lenore Howard's observations about the legacy which ancient Greek mythology has imposed on contemporary Western culture. Among many examples of this is the myth of Psyche and Apollo, which suggests that women's personalities- like Psyche's-equate with their genitals: soft, dark, introverted, intuitive; and that men's personalities-like Apollo's-equate with male genitals: hard, extroverted, logical, penetrating, light.

From Oikos to Polis, Howard conflates the personal and the political. Women's heads are displaced or replaced with houses, lips, and men's heads. References to artillery and uniforms in or around traditional domestic situations serve as recurring visual metaphors of the oligarchic imposition of war on domestic life.

Europa comprises forty paintings, drawings and sculptures, representing three years of Howard's experimentation with the theme. Sometimes these are striking in their lucidness, sometimes they appear to hold personal references, to which one must seek a key. Some appear to be more clever, profound and relevant than others, but collectively the exhibition works as a visual thesis which suggests that war, domestic violence, sexuality, myth and the social positioning of the sexes are not disparate incidentals, but interdependent players in an historic hegemony.