Beyond busyness, trouser bulges, politics and portability:
a progressive dialogue
This piece of writing is a progressive dialogue between the writers Elizabeth Rankin and Lisa Sharp, which took place not in real time but in the remembered space of the FERRET 2 and 3 Exhibitions, visited by them both, though at different times. ER is Elizabeth Rankin and LS is Lisa Sharp,.
ER: Ferrets were creatures of discomfort and as such truly the creatures of art.
LS: Discomfort in art, as you so colourfully and metaphorically point out can take the form of visual discord in works of art.
ER: Bulges appeared and disappeared in the trouser fabric. The discomfort produced erratic movements and the true purpose of a ferret was revealed not just to be just busy but to create mischief…
LS: More than visual then, but a haptic dance. A felt itch, inside the trousers. Mischief, erraticism and trousers have certainly been the subject of much media commentary in Federal politics this week. Yet apparently it was also a week in which the arts was on the agenda for the first sitting week of Parliament. The Minister for the Arts happened to make this statement and it was not so widely reported:
“The arts should be provocative and disruptive and even on occasion outrageous.”
– Arts Minister Mitch Fifield.[i]
The occasion of the FERRET 3 exhibition is an opportunity to test these assertions.
ER: Sue Callanan’s work, Filling the Cavity of Time creates both a new ‘wall’ and a landscape of the mundane in a space in the back of the gallery. The beauty of this softly architectural piece is the reversal of our anticipation of a wall - here all is transparent, irregular and muted.
LS: Nearby is Simone Griffin’s Cloud Cover a work that also invokes the architectural, but this time by bringing architecture in the form of a shelter into the gallery space. It invokes, through a taut-stretched A-frame (digital prints on lycra), tethered via fencing wire to bricks, the spatial memory of a tent pegged in an open field.
LS: Damian Dillon’s work Pop will eat itself stands, no, leans against the wall for support, its sturdy little Lego legs brightly (but not really) holding up a plywood support on which are awkwardly taped and pictorially blurred images, seeming landscapes perhaps. The whole assemblage seems precarious, yet this is undercut by a series of deliberate choices in its placement within the gallery space.
LS: Also taped, but to the wall and onto the ground outside is another serial iteration of landscape representation with Renay Pepita / RAW Contemporary’s Untitled works. The location (above the back stairs and in the back lane access area), in spaces that are easily overlooked, the negotiable scale and the use of caution tape are aspects which lend transience and a poignancy to the work, which maps Eora nation stolen ground through a dimensional reference to 26 January.
ER: Elizabeth Rankin’s Scream (2017) is an oil on industrial plastic drawing of a distorted male face. A largish rectangle loosely hung on two pins; the work directly portrays human emotion. The image is smeared but the face is menacing in its distress.
ER: Far less meandering is Margaret Roberts’ Everyone can be a site specific artist (43 Junior Street ).This is a quite disciplined echo of the fence belonging to 43 Junior St,Leichhardt. It’s all about line, lines of white string attached to tacks.
LS: The titling is as a call to a communal witnessing and just after 1pm the following Saturday, a small group of us accompanies the artist to a visit of the original. Once on the street outside the gallery space, we begin with recognition of the form as seen on the gallery wall but move on to discuss nuances of meaning – the fence is of steel, not timber, and has a twin form, regularising and reinforcing this home’s street presentation. The disruptive relationship between the ‘real’ in the street and the representation in the gallery deepens in complexity and convolution.
LS: Another work playing upon the relationship between the real and the representative is Jeff Wood’s Monty the Paper Robot. This little fallible simulacrum on a cardboard Doric column confounds, and thus disrupts, our expectations of the robotic. Rather than a technological future, the artist’s reference is of childhood memory.
LS: The outwardly benign appearance of an all-white water tap adjacent to Roberts’ fence work leads us into another work, and the world of water politics. Sandra Smith’s 5-Litre I and II utilise solid concrete casts to represent a measure of water: the Cape Town household allocation of 5 litres, a precious and precarious commodity.
LS: In the darkened wedge of space under the stairs are two works referencing and translating that space’s definition by bricks and darkness.
ER: The work of Tamsin Salehian Shadow is a small irregular sculpture of stacked bricks lit by red and green spotlights. The effect of the work depends upon its use of both colour and the play of intersecting shadows. Sarah Newell’s long installation unstable architecture is a complex multi piece of mini plywood shelves interspersed with quaint little pots of succulents.
LS: At the front of the gallery is an eye-catching tangle of yellow metal. Facing the street in a recently all-too familiar streetscape re-presented, Isaac Nixon’s OF[f c]O[urse] presents O bikes as art objects, removed from utility and exposed as formal elements.
ER: On the opposite wall Raymond Matthews’ installation The Bending of Light forms a smaller and rather more irregular (sculpture) as shapes of moulded plastic pieces tumble down the wall to the floor of the gallery.
LS: From a tumble to a rain of blue, Opie’s ceramic installation Falling Down, Getting Up is a suspended shower of hand-holdable droplet shapes, pooled on the floor beneath. Glazed in a variety of blues, the work is a fractured, moving monochrome. ‘Stand in the rain, stand in your pain, it will fall, dry and be gone’ counsels Opie.
LS: Elsewhere and everywhere are a series of small-scaled works whose positions are not fixed. Instead they move, appearing and re-appearing in different contexts, courtesy of unseen agents. Alycia Moffat’s works Misplaced / Displaced are a series of 5 brightly patterned textiles, at the scale of a personal item of clothing; a scarf, tie or sock perhaps. Intended to represent buk choy leaves, they are a commentary on personal feelings of displacement and belonging. Similarly, Fiona Kemp’s floor-based works, Untitled are unsettling, and were in different locations each time I visited.
ER: a rather sneaky floor work (these) are plastic sculptural brain parts with curious horse hair tails. They are very disturbing as the combination of materials might well be but they amuse as well. Will they scuttle away and hide in a corner of the gallery?
LS: Speaking of hiding, somewhere in the space was a work I missed completely. Initially dismayed, on reading the Room Sheet later I find that this was ultimately successful on its part, for “this work is an experiment in how we hide, and what outlines are still visible.” Sarah Woodward had placed a small, mute effigy somewhere in the gallery, plaintively wrapped in plastic, I discover from her Instagram account.
ER: The gallery levels are linked by the long strips of cloth hanging in a column drop from one level to another. This soaring work is the installation of Laine Hogarty and is aptly named antidote for worry and indeed it is.
LS: Swept upstairs by hope, there is space to breathe between the works. In a tender and gentle affirmation Adrian Hall’s Dans les champs de l’observation le hazard ne favorise que les esprits prepares: Louis Pasteur – Lectures, Lilles 1854. For the unprepared spirit however, there was much meaning in a documented moment that recalled another intimate encounter and documentations with the person and work of Joseph Beuys.
LS: The work of Barbara Halnan is always meticulously made and imparts ideas of underlying systems, measure and clarity. From chaos into order, she ‘ferreted’ to find and use MDF offcuts, the final presentation on the wall an exercise in avoiding right-angles and parallel lines with a result that is, conversely, regular and concise.
ER: Ambrose Reisch’s small black sculpture sits a little mysteriously on a plinth. Called Toast it is a found toaster holding not bread but two small identical books. The work is painted almost entirely black.
LS: As black as burnt toast, Louise Morgan’s adjacent works Impact carry the marks of rain and serve as pictorial lace as well as a record of the effect of heavy summer storms on sheets of handmade paper.
LS: This last week it was Nicole Ellis’ work KIT that most eloquently encapsulated the exhibition as a movable feast, a portable grab bag of adaptive and adaptable art. Ellis uses recycled textiles, suggesting continuum, pace and renewal. Its position, hung from a beam, suggests it is temporary. As the FERRET exhibition continues its progressive dance, the works, as installations, inhabitations and occupations of the varied spaces of Articulate Project space blur and merge into each other, hauntings from the past, influencing and predicting the future. Artists and art come and go, resting and conversing a while in the space before packing it all up and moving on.
[i] Esther Anatolitis, #artsagenda, Media Release, 5 February 2018, NAVA website, https://visualarts.net.au/news-opinion/2018/media-release-artsagenda/