A few hundred words into writing this, I clicked ‘Save’ and Word suggested the filename ‘between accident and intent’ – a fragment of text still floating at the top of the page. It seems apt to embrace this chance title. While the intention of World Material was to explore the resonances within and between the works of these artists, many of the connections that have arisen during the show’s subsequent development and installation have been surprising and even uncanny. The expanded material, spatial, geographic and conceptual potentials of these works collide at a number of points.
Fictions are employed in order to reveal new truths. Louise Weaver’s paintings might appear to be encased in the bubble wrap and packing tape that would have protected them in storage or transit, but are actually constructed from ‘skins’ of paint that have been built up on another surface before being applied to canvas as abstract colour fields. Like Weaver, Connie Anthes confounds expectations in her construction of a painting’s surface, her work Untitled (Shadow Figures) employing a soft sculpture as a stencil, with the perceived depth of the resulting two-dimensional impression disrupted by a scattering of flatly-painted glyphs. The River Red Gum ‘branches’ nestled among Yasmin Smith’s Ntaria Fence are actually slip-cast ceramic proxies, glazed with wood ash collected from the same area of Hermannsburg, Central Australia as the branches themselves.
Like Smith, Lotte Schwerdtfeger and Rebecca Gallo also present expanded understandings of landscape through the materials and forms they employ. Using natural clay sourced from the goldrush-ravaged Fryers Forest region of Victoria, Schwerdtfeger houses pieces of shattered local bedrock in specially-shaped plinths, interspersed with conventional pottery forms evoking a human presence. In Gallo’s sculptural installations, objects that once lay inert in places like Hill End, Fowlers Gap, Emu Plains and Sydney’s inner west have been reactivated, carefully incorporated into totemic compositions that are both fragile and playful.
The perfectly mundane is conjured into significance in the hands of these artists. In Gallo’s works a fine balance is quite literally struck between found, carved and cast objects; An upturned ice-cream container rests jauntily on one of Smith’s Red Gum branches; In Weaver’s hands the trappings of a gallery stockroom become a lunar surface; Michelle Nikou transforms clothes dryer lint into domestic motifs; The notorious Mac ‘spinning wheel of death’ hypnotises in Anthes’ Mantle Piece.
The folding and unfolding of planes that occurs in Mantle Piece, as a three-dimensional object is flattened into two dimensions then reprojected onto itself, creates an ambiguity in spatial comprehension. To do this Anthes uses orthographic projection, a technique that has been employed since antiquity to map star systems. Lisa Sammut’s work form deforms you is also a spatial map, in which organic and geometric motifs are connected atop an indigo velvet surface to create a sense of cosmic time, distance and scale.
The flat-sided forms in Sammut’s microcosmic cosmos feature painted or collaged surfaces which transform their diorama-like simplicity into dimensional portals. Eloïse Kirk also employs collage, exploring its intersection with painting in abstracted landscapes that are forged in the connections between organic elements and in the space between the romantic and the surreal. The title of her painting Ultra Plinian alludes to volcanic eruptions, and a geological form in the centre of the composition oozes black resin.
The works in World Material embody a sense of expanded possibility. Our world has held these materials, and these materials now hold new worlds for us.
Thanks to the artists, those who supported the transport and installation of their works, The Commercial , & the Darren Knight Gallery team.
World Material continues at Darren Knight Gallery until 25 February 2017.