Rosslynd Piggott by Jane Devery
Excerpted from the Know My Name publication (2020).
Beds are domestic and commonplace. Yet they are the sites of our most intimate moments: sleep, birth, death, sex and dreams. Rosslynd Piggott’s High bed 1998 is an oversized bed that is soft, white and downy. It looks inviting, but it can never deliver on the promise of comfort we might expect. It is too high to climb up to and the rungs of the ladder are too far apart to easily negotiate. If you did manage to scale the height, climb into bed and fall asleep, you might very well risk falling. The distortions that we see in this sculpture— an enormous bed, a tiny pair of shoes, a diminutive house, all being reflected by a mirror—suggest that this is a dreamlike scenario that could tip over into a nightmare at any given moment. It perfectly reflects the Freudian concept of the uncanny: something that is both familiar and frightening at once.
High bed is one of Piggott’s most important installations. In it, she transforms the trope of a monolithic minimalist sculpture into a feminine space imbued with personal and psychological dimensions. It is one of a number of works she made following a residency in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts over the winter of 1993–94. Piggott developed the idea for the work after visiting an exhibition on the history of the bedroom from the Medieval period to the 1970s at the Musée d’Arts decoratif, an experience she described as ‘something like time travel via the space and decor of the bedroom’.(1) A sense of the weight of history she felt in Paris as well as her experience of sleeping in a single bed in the cramped quarters of her studio also contributed to the idea for the work, as she has noted:
My head was full of images from days, weeks and months of art viewing in endless corridors of the grand musée. One night, this over‑abundance of input, needing an outlet, seemed to transfer itself into an object. Perhaps, as I was processing the wonderful bedroom exhibition, wriggling in the Cité cloister bed, bathing in half sleep in the illuminations of the lights of the bateau‑mouche, this state of over‑stimulation in an electric flash, produced the image of a swollen bed, an absent sleeper with the weight of French maison upon her chest.(2)
Piggott first expressed the idea for High bed in a series of watercolors she made in Paris during the residency and then realised it in its current sculptural form some years later in her Melbourne studio. Piggott is best known as a painter, but she often works across media, most recently making engraved glass sculptures in collaboration with master artisans on the island of Murano in Venice.
(1) Rosslynd Piggott, ‘High bed 1998’, artist statement, 2019.
(2) As above.
Citation: Cite this excerpt as: Devery, Jane. "Rosslynd Piggott" in N Bullock, K Cole, D Hart & E Pitt (eds), Know My Name, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2020, pp 296–297.
JANE DEVERY is Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.