Forms of Agency (31st January – 25 February, 2018).
c3 Contemporary Art Space, Abbotsford, Melbourne, Victoria.
Inspired by the symbolic elements and motifs that encode Peruvian textile imagery with meaning and compositional logic, these paintings evoke a sense of the known through their interconnected patterns and typological imagery. By working within the constraints of certain geometric patterns, I challenge myself to formally interlace richly complex ways of seeing and knowing. This iconographic system allows me to connect abstract, expressive and representational painting in such a way that inter-iconic relationships emerge and give rise to a multitude of different aesthetics. At times, resulting crystalline effects extend living forms into geology and the irregular geometry of my previous works. The paintings present structural affinities between the figures and their grounds that suggest forms of knowing are contingent on the conditions from which they emerge. The title of the exhibition – Forms of Agency – reflects this relationship between textiles, painting and agency.
The paintings hence bring disparate fields together via geometric abstraction. Geometric motifs suggest how knowledge includes and excludes, and is shaped and built. Their separating lines provide me with a space to explore how forms can both shape and are shaped by structures, including ideological ones, such as the utopian promise of consumer culture. Each painting features the trace of a domestic object that appears as a 1:1 blueprint or diagram and corresponds to our corporeal expectations. Their structures inspire analogy and give rise to metaphor and association, and are a counterpoint to the physicality of my bird sculptures, which were squeezed into the rectilinear formations of Tetra Paks. The process of finding forms and weaving imagery into their patterns is my way of understanding the world, of continuously determining relations.
The pollinator was initially inspired by the act of pollinating pumpkin flowers using my paintbrush. Afterwards I spent time admiring their forms while drawing them onto isomorphic paper. By making them conform to the triangular matrix their crumpled wilted parts appeared as parts of faceted crystal vessels or wombs, while their whole forms also reminded me of Giacomo Balla’s futurist flowers. The brush that enabled the flower to bear fruit was the same one that created painted worlds of their forms. The mineral and geometric structures allow the compositions to grow like organic life forms, so that the generative qualities of seemingly inert natural elements become the vital life of the painting, crossing categories between human, plant and cultural object.
Allowable forms and unconscious facts.
Our vision is central to understanding how we ‘hang together’; by looking at things we try to feel our way and see ourselves. In Allowable forms and unconscious facts circular stovetop plates resemble an egg, eyes and breasts. The oven’s rigid structure suggests a canon of allowable forms that our bodies are forced to conform to, and work within. Bodily connotations ride on domestic ones. The vanitas theme suggests fleeting, limited resources and entropy, while the slumped head, confronted by an eyeball/balloon/sperm, points to a troubled developmental stage for humanity. The cross that separates and unites these circular forms appears as both generative (life) and sacrificial (death). Effects of transparency and opacity, distortions of scale and other ‘painterly’ signs serve as aesthetic expressions of states of spiritual and existential need.
The brush-tipped tongue of a honeyeater functions the same way as a paint brush.
A tree of life features Illawarra birds – the eastern yellow robin, golden whistler, scarlet honeyeater, red-whiskered bulbul, variegated fairy-wren, eastern spinebill, superb fairy-wren, welcome swallow, red-browed finch and silvereye – that float around cross-sections of truncated branches. The cross-sections are structurally similar to the sink-hole beneath them, reflecting the drain on the system. A diagram reflecting the title, The brush-tipped tongue of a honeyeater functions the same way as a paint brush, suggests that biospheric ecology and artistic agency might mirror each other.
Struggling with the honeyeaters.
Ecological processes have been overloaded. Human populations and economic activity exceed global sustainable resource consumption known as ‘carrying capacity’. In Struggling with the honeyeaters, a bag weighs a tonne of bricks while ‘honeyeaters’ consume resources.
How to look at a hexagon.
Blocks of coal sourced from an Illawarra mine glitter with embedded crystal structures, reflecting the hexagonal molecular structure of coal and its fundamental role fuelling human existence. In How to look at a hexagon the struggle over resources is connoted by army camouflage.