AT10: Articulate turns Ten – group exhibition
Articulate project space, 19 December 2020 – 3 January 2021
It all begins with soap
Here we are, we open the door, go in and begin the rituals. We register ourselves, checking in and performing hand sanitisation. Maybe we also wear a facemask and we are definitely conscious of maintaining a 1.5 m distance from others. It is pandemic season and announcing one’s identity, hygiene and personal space are on show in the gallery for the annual exhibition AT10: Articulate Turns Ten at Articulate project space, celebrating ten years of spatial and experimental art practice in its location at Parramatta Rd. Leichhardt.
Let us wash. A strong smell of soap with its associations of washing and cleanliness assail you once inside, and while an orderly installation of bars and bowls of creamy soap are familiar and ought to be comforting, the carved statements they spell out are not, sowing seeds of doubt about welcome in that place for anyone who has heard them (Alan Shacher, You Don’t Know Me From a Bar of Soap!). Reflecting on a wider narrative beyond that stark domestic contrast invoked by Shacher’s choice of materials: white soap and black shoe polish, is another loaded text work, a diptych quietly but emphatically hanging above, inviting dissection of word and meaning (Vilma Bader, Blackout). Works engaging with the socio-political and cultural and visual contexts of text and language continue within. A painting with a gridded composition functions through a colour-square system to translate an artist’s aphorism (Kate Mackay, Language Is A Virus – Laurie Anderson). Apparent seasonal greetings are conveyed by a string of crystal ball-baubles, but the adjacent noticeboard speaks of veering between horror and jollity (Sue Callanan, Ho! Ho! Ho! : Ha! Ha! Ha!).
Let us look. Perception is very often altered by one’s viewpoint, and there is a convention within painting, and the vernacular of abstraction to reference a window as a device. Through a window, framing and transparency are means of directing gaze and the visual dilemma of looking through / at. This is particularly pronounced in the many angles and coloured surfaces bluntly offered by Susan Andrews’ Orange Lip, glimpsed at in the ambiguous angled spaces of Barbara Halnan’s Pages and suggested by the ephemeral layering, placement and tapes of Michelle Le Dain’s Square. Explorations of rectilinearity through paint and colour continue. Sarah Fitzgerald’s The Three Graces is a small and delicate tempera and wax painting alluding to a historical subject. Diane McCarthy’s Orphans in the Storm diptych is a muted colour study anchored by a grid. Coming off the canvas and onto a domestic textile, a complex layering and weaving of paint with found colour finds a softened, domestic expression (Nicole Ellis, Double-Check 4), while upstairs in a dramatically lit corner, monochromatic planes incline, suggesting ways of reconfiguring space (Beata Gayer, Tango). Referencing the regular while allowing for the insinuation of tactile materiality to emerge; paint flecks sit, somehow uncomfortably, on a felt surface (Tamsin Salehian, Untitled) while the seriality of a triptych frames an unlikely combination of human hair, folded plastic and hessian (Philippa Hagon, Continuum).
Let us look within, and close to home. Unexpected conflations of materials and methods offer alternate and temporal metaphors and meanings, lending poignancy to re-contextualised objects. My work conflates dumpling-folding techniques with priming a canvas for painting (Lisa Pang, Paintless Paintings (i) gyoza (ii) bao (iii) combination). Substitution and surrogacy of materials effectively creates a space of subversive domesticity; present in Jane Burton Taylor’s re-imagined wallpaper square (Wallpaper – After Agnes) and in the soft pillows scattered in piles, featuring transferred psychological-response imagery (Fiona Kemp, Now I Lay You Down). Elsewhere, tucked under the stairs, there is comfort in the manufactured domesticity of a comfortable chair, a lamp to read by and a bookshelf filled with proffered books (Ella Dreyfus, Help Yourself!). Drawing back and looking at the house and home at a remove, as a container of people, are Jan Handel’s analytical series of drawings on house-building materials (HOUSE (contain / er).
Residues, collaged and combined assemblages evocative of domestic life continue to pervade other works, indicative perhaps of the lengthy lockdown time we spent at home this year (Sue Pedley & Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Line Work). Elizabeth Rankin’s Fabrications of Linda is a painted portrait pinned, primped, plaited fussed and worried over, much like the frustrating elusivity of the crime represented. Che Ritz presents a series of detailed drawings evocative of absent sound (and freer times) in Distortion 2020 Homage to Effects Pedals creative process endless possibilities live music and free spirits. Elke Wohlfahrt in Beyond Stitching I-IV has made forms that are bound and gathered from upholstery offcuts and other things.
Let us look without. In a similar spirit of free wheeling play using domestic materials to hand, Gary Warner has fashioned the sonic event generator for gallery wall from consumer packaging waste materials. Waste is also upcycled as colourful, yet sinister plastic assemblages by Rox De Luca in Blue, green, yellow absurdity. Finds of plastic on Sydney beaches lead us to anxious contemplation of the fragility of our environment and the wall drawing by Parris Dewhurst, Ephemeral Landscape, to be gradually erased over the course of the exhibition, expresses that concern. Loss of landscape through fire devastation was a recent reality and Juliet Fowler Smith’s Koala up a tree uncannily resembles a giant match. Commentary upon and objects recalling last summer’s bushfires are filmic and visual reminders of that stark experience (Mahalya Middlemist, Reverse Bushfire #2 & Noelene Lucas, Black Earth) with recovery an enduring hope (Sonja Karl, Rebounding Buds).
Let us move. Rather than facilitating one’s movement in the space, some works function to direct or hinder passage, calling attention to the significance and value we place in free movement and expectations of behaviour (Raymond Matthews, Boundaries & Murray and Burgess, Hazard). Wider movements of people and the function of borders, topical subjects these days, are explored through the pokerwork drawing by Kendal Heyes, Dover. Imagery and accessibility of travel also seemed to become more localised this year, and the call of wide open spaces as a road trip experience is evoked by photographic work (Molly Wagner, It’s all happened before… & Steven Fasan Somewhere). Bonita Ely’s The Tenth Coolest Suburb in the World is a celebration of the local as destination, and travel as a state of mind. Anke Stäcker’s Random Discoveries is just that, a presentation of street photography through street names, all female, randomly found.
Let us connect. The collaborative and performative impulse is realised through works made and manipulated online (Isobel Johnston & Jude Crawford) and through the virtual participation of one artist from Germany (Beta Bruder, Breakfast with Beta). A still from a previous collaboration in the space lingers on like a memory (Voices of Women, Lliane Clarke). Yearning for human contact and touch is gently and profoundly realised by the video work, Untitled [Distant Near] by Renay Pepita & Michael Ward. The screen placed low on the floor reveals a body turning and curling in the same site, recorded during lockdown. It is a solo by a usually participatory performer and its melancholic soundtrack seeps into the room and the mood.
Let us be. Sometimes, things are not as they seem. Several works in the show position themselves to play with concepts of reproducibility, duplication, and so, identity and context. Anya Pesce’s signature material-process of hand moulded acrylic sits beside an image of itself, linked by a bright gesture in neon (Cobalt Blue Form with Orange Paint 1). Another printed image reveals its constituent pigments as a spilt gesture (Curtis Ceapa, LLKMLCLKMKCMY). Sue Murray’s large scale painting Orange Tupperware magnifies and mirrors the multiple-use plastic domestic icon. All questioning the place and role of objects and representation.
It may be artistic shibboleth to say that art holds up a mirror to the world, but here it is, these works, this space and our movement within it reflecting and indeed articulating much that has happened and is happening in our age. Or we could say that these contemporary and contemporaneous works are interpreted as analyses and musings because, 2020. It has been a tumultuous year for humanity. We see this, because we have lived with and debated over these things. Cleanliness and colour politics. Framed and mediated points of view. Expansion of the domestic sphere. Movement of people. Things taken for granted. Things questioned. The space for kindness and community. Look up. Margaret Roberts’ work TEST2 hangs on the axis of Articulate project space, marking its internal linear division. A black fabric form, an interpretation of half a painting made by another artist in another tumultuous age, the other (white) portion of the painting left unarticulated, as Roberts says, to dissolve into its invisible space.
To Every Age Its Art. To Every Art Its Freedom.
Lisa Pang (Lisa Sharp)
With thanks to Articulate project space and its community of artists,
dedicated to spatial and experimental arts practices.