Barely Wearable

National Exhibition Register

  • A very close shave
    Ruth Downes A very close shave, 2019
    disposable razors
    680 x 270 x 30 mm

About the exhibition

This body of work is a continuation of Ruth Downes’ passion for reappropriating everyday materials and objects to celebrate their intrinsic beauty. Materials for these thirty ‘wearable’ artworks have been gleaned from a diverse range of sources – from aircraft headsets to coffee capsules. Detritus from nature has also been salvaged to be re-born as a fashion statement.

By reimagining these materials she has created works that transcend their utilitarian function, casting them in a fresh light. The works question our accepted values and how we award status by projecting these everyday materials into the realm of art. They have a preciousness that confounds our expectations irrespective of their humble origins. This is much more than a simple ‘up-cycling’ exercise - Downes has an acute awareness of the potential of these materials. Her trademark humour also runs as a thread throughout the exhibition adding a further dimension.

These 3D works are mounted on a spectrum of coloured ellipses (350 – 750mm high) with several ‘busting out’ on mounted body forms. Some works are augmented by photo portraits of models (of varying sizes and gender) attempting to make them wearable. 

Venue dates are booked as follows - however please contact the artist to discuss availablily: 

  • 12 March- 26 April 2020, Manning Regional Art Gallery, Taree NSW
  • 10 August - 23 November 2020, Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, Huskisson NSW
  • 11 February - 1 April 2021, Gympie Regional Gallery, Gympie QLD
  • 10 April - 26 May 2021, Lapunyah Art Gallery, Chinchilla QLD
  • 4 February - 1 May 2022, Hurstville Museum and Gallery, Sydney NSW
  • 9 December 2022 - 20 February 2023, Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Sydney NSW

Artists and Curator

Katherine Roberts, Manly Art Gallery & Museum

Ruth Downes

This area of sculptural exploration has been an ongoing obsession as was visible in Downes' previous exhibitions. ‘Tea Party in the Mayoral Garden’ (2001 - 2010) won the inaugural NGA Sculpture Prize 'People's Choice Award' then toured to New York and Washington, followed by an extensive Australian touring program. The follow up exhibition ‘Lunch for the Trades’ (2007 - 2010), also toured by Manly Art Gallery & Museum, travelled to many regional galleries in NSW and Queensland. Ruth has had a parallel career in design and public art. This has included commissions for site specific 2D and 3D public art works.

Available Dates and
Exhibition Details

Available dates
01/02/2020 - 30/11/2023
Exhibition size
Under 50 sq or running metres
Originating state
Organised by
Manly Art Gallery & Museum
Contact to discuss
Web Site
Accompanying materials available
Exhibition Tour Manual, Installation Support Available, Labels, Public Program Opportunities, Signage
Other materials
Saleable neckpieces and brooches
Primary contact
Ruth Downes
+61 418 250 197
Secondary contact
Geoff Webster - Tour Manager
+61 418 295 855
Toured by Manly Art Gallery & Museum