World Material: Between Accident and Intent [download pdf]
Catalogue Essay by Chloé Wolifson
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 gold rush-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.
What a time to be making art about the market value placed on artistic labour! Two Sydney-based artists, Connie Anthes and Rebecca Gallo present Make or Break, a live art project exploring this theme using social exchange, alchemy and public engagement.
Anthes and Gallo ask the public to donate materials, any materials, be it a bottle cap that they found on the street, a cup of coffee or a once-cherished, now disused, record player. The first iteration, in 2015 at Firstdraft in Sydney, saw the artists use their creativity to come up with work on the spot, tag-teaming to create works that could be built upon, destroyed or sold.
The artists were responding to artistic labour and its value in the art market, and also in the wider economy.
Having had their studios taken away, Gallo states that they wanted to “be more honest about the conditions we were working under, to be more explicit. Last year Connie lost her studio space due to gentrification and the space got turned into ‘creative industries’ and I was working out of my garage because that was the most affordable option.” There’s no doubt about the impact that the Sydney (and Australian) housing market has had on, not only artists, but, well, I’d quote the Occupy movement here but we all know the implications. The title of the exhibition itself carries the metaphor.
This second iteration, showing at BUS Projects will re-enact this process, allowing audience members, friends, artists and, if word gets around, the local industry around Collingwood and beyond to bring objects into the gallery and watch the two artists reconstruct value using both the object itself, and the process of making: their artistic labour. The only objects they start off with are a chair, a table, two saws and a basic toolkit.
Anthes and Gallo are looking at reinvigorating the typical white box space, which of course, Daniel Buren and Co. bought to attention in the first waves of institutional critique in the 1960s and 1970s, but the performativity and collaboration in the project brings a social element that was missing then. As Anthes says, they “wanted to acknowledge that this whole cult of the genius individual artist working in isolation is such a falsehood.” To bring attention to artistic labour, art should exist in the social space, where people are welcome to bring objects and spark conversations around the material and immaterial value of those objects, communally.
The continuous work in the space also denies the spectacle of opening nights. Rather, the artists disperse that energy throughout the whole exhibition, creating a more gradual, but perhaps, more meaningful dialogue with the art and their visitors, and through that, a conversation over the value that is placed on the work that artists do. Take them something you can part with.
Curated by Anna May Kirk, Kudos Gallery
[view digital catalogue]
Catalogue: Written In Time
Curated by Catherine Benz, Delmar Gallery
[view digital catalogue]
Catalogue: Mythology of the Land
Essay by Andrew Giles
Rebecca Gallo has just returned from a visit to Fowlers Gap on an Arc residency across The Green House and Ochre House. Arc subsidise this studio about an hour and a half from Broken Hill in far western NSW on a UNSW Research Station. The studio is virtually in the middle of nowhere, it’s equipped with a kitchenette and can accommodate up to four people. We find out about Bec’s recent experience ‘out there’. [download pdf to read full interview]
Inner West Courier: Rookwood Cemetery Sculpture Walk
Fbi Flog: Framed – Rebecca Gallo
‘Found objects’ is a loving way arts writers, creators, curators and appreciators say…well crap really. Junk. Rubbish. Old shovels and tables, books and suitcases. But ‘Found Objects’ form the heart of local interdisciplinary artist Rebecca Gallo’s charming sculptures and installations. Your average Joe sees council pickup day. Rebecca sees boundless artistic opportunity.
The little worlds of her recent work, born out of meticulous arrangement and an ability to see something in nothing, resonate in a very big way. In Grey matter: into the mire a transfixing vision of the planet is born out of no less than vacuum cleaner lint and a bed spring. You can’t help but be paused by the illusion, as a spectrum of LEDs pierces through the contents beneath all of those seldom-cleaned rugs in your flat and makes it damn beautiful. You can almost smell the plastic burning in Grey matter: beached, where what is almost a ridiculously juvenile, innocent collation of bits and bobs is unified with harrowing sadness and tragedy.
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