HOW ONE THINGS MEETS ANOTHER
By Melissa Hamlyn
Lina Buck, Isabel Buck, Lucy Kingsley, Ruby Kammoora, Lauren Lowe and Lucy Serret
“A TV screen is broken down into a tactile architecture and meeting of materials – vapour filled cells attached to a labyrinth of electrodes fused with plasma and glass, projecting a moving image into the gallery. Unseen to the human eye, the image consists of cotton filaments and thread twisting and turning through a porous metal structure. With the help of fibre-optic strands and a pixelated screen our eyes – cornea, retina and optic nerve – distil this image to reveal a flesh-like fabric plunging and swooping through the gaps of a fence.”
Location Devices, Lina Buck. Image Credit: Sarah Lay
How One Thing Meets Another is an exhibition featuring six artists who appropriate modern technology to highlight the fluid relationships that exist between the artist, viewer and artwork. An emphasis on the description of raw materials aims to heighten awareness of the distinction between an art object and the materials used to create it. Arbitrary meanings are often placed on art objects by artists; yet the choice of materials used to create objects is often pragmatic. It is unusual to read an exhibition review that places raw materials in the foreground and artists and conceptual concerns in the background- by raising an awareness of the materiality of each object each artist makes the viewer conscious of the bond between the human and non-human.
This exhibition combines the practices of Lina Buck, Isabel Buck, Lucy Kingsley, Ruby Kammoora, Lauren Lowe and Lucy Serret in an attempt to articulate the inert and unseen forces of materials.
Videography, photographs, performance, concrete slabs, wood, acrylic paint, metal, wool, vegetation, dirt and flame merge in an infinite chain of resistance and surrender.
An industrial cement archway bound with mesh tape is placed on casters and slides and shifts around the interior of the gallery. The movement of the archway constantly re-directs and re-frames the encounter of each work, acting as a doorway: the arch becomes a mediator of movement. In the centre of the gallery, large scale weavings mounted on gridded metal frames are anchored to the floor with bundles of wood, dissecting the space, creating a barrier that challenges spatial movement. These large and imposing works are juxtaposed with smaller sculptural curio that have been left outdoors and exposed to environmental forces. Photographic prints are attached to the walls, documenting this process in stages. Traces of a burning ritual are scattered on the floor – mounds of soil, charcoal and plant seedlings animate the white space of the gallery. Two looped video works play on wall-mounted TV screens: one captures the scene of slow moving ink as it consumes a fresh body of water, the other portrays fabric as a corporeal entity, moved by a breeze, it yields to and resists a metal fence against a backdrop of suburbia.
How One Thing Meets Another highlights the human tendency to project meaning and use onto objects ; we evaluate materials on the bases of their properties, value, function, origin, age, colour, shape, texture and location. Often these value judgements are arbitrary, porous, permeable or unclear and not validated by objective opinion but rather a ‘feeling’ or emotional response.
In Lucy Kingsley’s Skin, for example, the presence of a ‘flesh-like fabric’ moved by wind appears to invade the structure of a fence. The fabric is merely cotton thread spun into a ribbon-like shape: the raw materials themselves innate and void of pre-destiny and pre-determined use. It is the human experience of sensation and learned associations that leads to the notion of cloth as flesh. The idea of cloth as skin unfurled, its textural sensation and its function as clothing or bodily veil are projected human and artistic traits. The image of a suburban metal fence is given an arbitrary purpose and meaning (for example the Australian dream of a white picket fence) entirely unrelated to its function as a utilitarian object. In Skin the fence becomes an agitator to the free movement of the fabricated skin. The impartiality of raw materials when combined with the creative freedom of the artist, transforms these materials into conduits of information. The following exchange has occurred in Skin: the TV screen is broken down into a tactile architecture and meeting of materials – vapour filled cells attached to a labyrinth of electrodes fused with plasma and glass, projecting a moving image into the gallery. Unseen to the human eye, the image consists of cotton filaments and thread twisting and turning through a porous metal structure. With the help of fibre-optic strands and a pixelated screen our eyes – cornea, retina and optic nerve – distil this image to reveal a flesh-like fabric plunging and swooping through the gaps of a fence.
Notions of identity, politics, psychology, bureaucracy, environment and temporal space are a thematic concern of the exhibition. Raw materials are used to demonstrate our potential to rebel and accept entrenched cultural ideals.
Skin, Lucy Kingsley. Image Credit: Sarah Lay
This can certainly be seen in Location Devices by Lina Buck. Animal, plant and vegetable fibres are twisted and spun to form long continuous lengths of yarn: various pulps and proteins congeal, with no inherent meaning- it is all just matter. When the process of weaving is introduced, the yarn materialises into a recognisable cultural form, its appearance moulded by the intuitive press of human hands. A metallic mesh attempts to contain the looped threads that have been textured, crimped, stretched, warped, and weft into a repetitive design. The metal frame acts as a boundary restricting forbidden movement. On closer inspection, the symmetry and predictability of the weaving pattern is corrupted with woven faults- in an attempt to escape the rigid confines of the steel frames. This rupture in the space of the work reveals the beauty of the raw materials, the artist’s hand; it implies endurance and portrays ‘the mistake’ as perfection.
A shift from physical barriers to temporal ones is evident in Lauren Lowe’s work ‘Take Your Time’ which explores temporal space and its effects, both real and imagined.
Sculpted forms show signs of fatigue, their weathered forms consumed and engraved with the daily habits of the environment; condensation, atmospheric oxides, nitrogens, sulphur oxides, electromagnetic radiation, ultra violet rays, illuminant lunar rays, microscopic shards of rock, sand and clay – the temporal debris of nature and markers of elemental time. As spectators in this process, we have used a system of days, months, weeks and years as markers of time and endurance. ‘Take Your Time’ is a documentative work that explores how the human and non-human world can share the same spatial and temporal dimensions, yet are divided on the concept of time.
Psychological states are further explored in the video, The Dance of Tolerance by Lucy Serret. Ink – a coloured and fluid substance, viscous and adherent, reluctantly converges with a transparent, buoyant and odourless liquid. This temperamental and hostile co-mingling creates a palpable tension and strain – in the background a discordant soundtrack of trumpets, drums and piano heighten feelings of tension and pressure. The Dance of Tolerance uses sensory burden and emotive imagery to activate the gallery space, work that explores the mental and physical effects of stress.
How One Thing Meets Another expresses the aesthetic bond each artist has with their chosen materials: this emotive relationship between artist and object invokes an emotional response within the viewer.
Our awareness of shape, colour, form, texture and space are heightened. The materials, far from being ‘inanimate’, assert a gentle yet emphatic presence. This can be seen in the works of Ruby Kammoora and Isabel Buck.
Phoenix Seed/ Nauru, Ruby Kammoora. Image Credit: Sarah Lay
Phoenix Seed/ Nauru by Ruby Kammoora contains remnants of the aftermath of a hidden performative burning ritual that uses biology as a substrate for artistic practice and cultural representation. Banksia and Eucalyptus seeds meet a palpable mix of bright light, oxygen, smoke and heat that marks renewal, growth and restoration. The ceremonial event of serotiny – the process of germination activated by fire and heat, is used as a metaphor for political events – in particular the recent self-immolations on Nauru. The body and the materials perform in a corporeal entanglement – acting as conduits and vessels of meaning in the absence of words and images. To understand social and political events, Phoenix Seed/Nauru suggests it is important to understand the non-human constituents.
Isabel Buck’s sculpture Untitled (Locatedness) uses industrial construction techniques and mobility to disrupt the viewer’s movement in space, causing the viewer to focus on the sensation of place, rather than concentrating on a fixed location.
Untitled (Locatedness) is made of silicone, limestone, chalk and shale impregnated with cellulose, polymer and metal, subsequently shaped into a large structure reminiscent of industrial off-cuts. The assemblage adopts opaque, dense and impermeable qualities, focusing your awareness to ideas of heaviness, immobility and static energy. In contrast, the sculpture is able to move about the gallery via the actions of both artist and materials: it has been poked, moulded, squeezed and placed on casters; it has become unstable, unpredictable and fragile. Instead of being in awe of a stagnant industrial monolith, the viewer’s perceptions change from heaviness to softness, immobility to transience. Untitled (Locatedness) is a concrete archway acting as a mobile portal that constantly re-evaluates location in relation to the artwork, the gallery and spectator. When approached, this tension between states activates the work and explores sensation as a subjective and internal experience.
Raw materials have dual purposes. On one hand they are used as metaphysical markers embedded with symbolism: flesh-like fabrics, secret rituals, portals and barriers are shaped by the artist’s hand in an aim to understand the social, cultural and political structures that influence our behaviour, actions and opinions. On the other hand, each object has use beyond their symbolic and creative connotations. By emphasising this bond between human bodies and raw materials, the final image of the artworks is not a resolved or resolute answer but an ongoing enquiry that uses processes of transformation and translation.
This catalogue essay was written as part of RMIT Link Arts and Culture’s Arts Writing Mentorship Program, CRITICAL.
Alternatively you can find Melissa Hamlyn on Instagram as @neoncubicle….