28.1.18

A long review, of a short show with a lot of artists in it — Isobel Johnston

I grew up in Newcastle, we used to buy prawns from the fish co-op, I called it Funnel Web Fisheries but it was Red Funnel Fisheries. That’s how I learnt the term malapropism.

Words are wonderful. It is not the misplacement of words but rather the playfulness of words that seem to have inspired the title Ferret for the third in a series of rolling exhibitions, Fair Isle 2013 and Feral 2015, with openings for this show on the 26 Jan, 2, 9, 16 and 23 Feb held at Articulate project space in 2018.  

It is an exhibition that offers more than the sum of its parts, as audiences that return for each new exhibition carry the immediate memory of the last show. And these returning viewers are part of the process of exchange: work A was there where work B now stands and in relation to  work C and work D  and now in the context of X and Y  and so on.

In this first iteration of Ferret, the breadth of intellectual enquiry is far ranging. It includes but is not limited to the environment, the body, shelter, mark making, painting, the stars and is delivered through various art forms again including but not limited to: installation, video, photo media, interactive maps, objects, sculpture, digital image, and residual trace.

It is above all, the use of largely everyday materials and the manner in which they transcend their regular use that seems to both unite and fracture our expectations.

Deborah Prior’s work Long Sleep#1 2018 is a standout example of this being able to be read as a poignant response to our human need for warmth and shelter and yet it is rendered unable to do either as the woollen blanket has been cut with clinical precision, pinned to the floor with most of it rerolled into two balls and displayed with all the formalism of high art. (1)

Michele Elliot’s work entitled One and Another 2018 seems to resonate similar ideas of ‘intimacy and abstraction’ bringing together watercolour, a cotton handkerchief and mapping pins to convey the everyday and even portraiture in what the artist describes as ‘a small digression’. (2)

Diane McCarthy’s Untitled also deals with trace and cloth; in this case the residual charcoal marks that leave their trace across the three related but separated works on paper made for this show.  It is a departure for those that know McCarthy’s work, which has long been concerned with skill rather than chance, as she is a highly accomplished draughtsperson.. The canvas plait that is bound to the paper in the third of these works seals the relationship of drawing and painting as inextricably bound together.

Beeswax, copper tacks and gesso are all associated with conventional support for oil painting. However, Lisa Sharp repositions these materials as independent of their painted surface reformed as ‘inarticualtions’ (paint less paintings) 2018,attached like little nests to the supporting beam of Articulate gallery’s wall, reminiscent of paper wasps’ homes writ large.

Lily Cummins’ Last night I searched for you among the sheets 2015-2016 again employs traditional art making materials but here she uses found cardboard as her chosen surface. This series of works were installed along the a ledge and side of the wall as if feeling their way in the gallery space - perhaps in search of you the viewer.

Space (and the  concepts surrounding the poetics of space) offers another connecting thread or means to discuss the disparate works by a number of other artists in the show.

William Seeto’s In A Sieve we’ll go to Sea is a wall work that seems to sum up all our fears for the future. It comprises repurposed objects, packaging and corrugated cardboard. Here, the uncertainty of the world we live in with a clock that ticks ever closer to midnight with only makeshift solutions, is captured in this aesthetically pleasing yet equally disturbing piece.

Sitting adjacent to Seeto’s is Anya Pesce’s work Large Diagonal Fold revisited 2017, a digital print on fabric of her own Large Diagonal Fold in perspex.  Strangely, jet shaped in its two dimensional form, it seems to hover in another dimension of travel. Bright, bold and dynamic there is something slightly melancholic about the work, perhaps caused by its relationship to the real and its simulacra.

Space travel might be seen to connect to Jacquelene Drinkall’s work Emergency Alfoil Anthrop , 2017 a still print from a video work wherein tin foil and the tin man from the Wizard of Oz are conflated in response to environmental issues of oil and coal.

In Anke Stäcker’s Nach Uns , 2017-2018 – which google translate as ‘after us’ in German, the work itself provides a sense of zones of uncertainty, presenting an image of what appears to be a visceral interior space but is in fact a digital image of plastic on plastic.

Catriona Stanton’s work The Line Between Us, 2018 uses fencing wire, material usually used to divide us, to create netlike structures that scale the gallery stairs asking “ is what divides us from within or without”  (3) While the work The Hours 2015 -2018 delivers the Business and Government white pages transformed into a web like structure by the artist black3y3dpeac3.  

For Kat Sawyer, it is the physical squeezing through small spaces in her set of actions, Pairs 2012 reminded me of Sydney’s ever increasing housing crisis is not unlike squeezing into smaller and smaller spaces. Housing is the ever present topic of conversation in Sydney and Emma Wise’s work The Housing project 2015- plots conversations that map Sydney’s accommodation, in what must seen as ‘shelter politics’ as housing becomes increasingly difficult for most people to secure in this town.  Angus Callander’s Canopy  2018 hangs from the rafters of the gallery both a festive banner and an ephemeral shelter , touching again on both questions of painting and modernism, and the relationship of viewer and the work.

Linden Braye’s work Retro-fit, 2018 gives us a work in the language of the ‘reno’ appealing to our preoccupation with architectural space at the same time it plays to the question of aesthetics and space.

There is a level of playfulness in many of the works that belies their seriousness and the often difficult issues they address.

A good example of the serious/playful juxtaposition is Kate Scott’s work  ‘Not quite unsightly enough ludic object (work in progress) 2018, while Rox de Luca’s works Mellow Yellow 2018, and Bluey 2018 are both visually appealing as chains of colour  and comforting in their order and arrangement.  However when we realize that they are collected pieces of plastic - this comfort doesn’t fall away per se but they unsettle us. It is as though they embody our complex relationship to the material in both its allure, and usefulness and at the same time as the scourge of the earth that chokes our waterways, floats as the giant garbage patch and is ingested by us as well as all things the earth.

Everything in heaven and earth comes full circle in Star grid, 2018 a collaborative work by Tim Corne and Martin Langthorne, that maps the exhibition itself and the artist’s works in relation to one and another with reference to heavyweights John Cage and Antonin Becvar’s own celestial atlases. Their Colour Score 2018 was ‘the show stopper’ of this incarnation of Ferret bringing clear triumphant stillness to the exhibition.

Articulate’s Ferret and its past incarnations could be seen as a kind of Mobius strip. Like topology itself; it turns and return on itself through time and space - altering, fluid and continuous. And it’s a great way to kick start the art year with work by a multitude of artists over five separate and yet connected shows.

Ferret I Friday 26 January – Sun 28 January 2018

 Isobel Johnston 2018

1.     Artist’s own statement links the work to sleep studies and the imperfect geometry of humans Room Sheet
2.     Artist’s statement in the Room Sheet

3.     Artist’s statement in the Room Sheet

 PDF version

FERRET 1 roomsheet

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