Video One Painting by Suzy Faiz Airspace Projects, 10 Junction Street Marrickville, 7th August to 23 August 2015
In Sydney, during the 1980’s, the contemporary art scene was dramatically changing primarily through Paul Taylor’s Art and Text magazine and the artists that followed it. Art and Text, successfully turned the tide of cultural estrangement and introduced an intellectual discourse about art to Australian readers, it got people talking about art again. It also paved the way for the next generation of artists, in particular the artist group Various Artists Ltd (that included artists A.D.S Donaldson, Janet Burchill, and Lindy Lee) and the Netherland born painter Matthys Gerber who was exhibiting at the Yuill/Crowley gallery. This group of artists differed from their contemporaries, as they were producing cutting edge art, which challenged the role of authorship, disregarded Hegel’s version of abstraction for more contemporary ideas, and embraced the genre of Appropriation Art. They are significant ideas about art that has been lost to the latest generation of artists.
Suzy Faiz’s latest exhibition Video One Painting, reveals she is resurrecting some of these ideas and introducing them to a new audience. In this exhibition, there are two works, a large-scale oil painting and a video work, with the gallery space thoughtfully divided, so the viewer can experience both separately. The curatorial aspects of this exhibition creates an atmosphere of self-reflection and mediation that supports the artwork’s contrasting themes about isolation, fabricated experiences, the role of authorship, and an investigation into stylistic constraints within the framework and history of painting.
Painting has an extensive history and a tradition of breaking away from stylistic constraints. Faiz continues this tradition with her large-scale oil painting ‘Divider’ (2015), by combining post-painterly abstraction with Albert Oehlen’s version of abstract art, an aversion away from recognisable forms. The painting exhibits a predominately warm-cool contrast in colour, with irregular sequencing, consequently producing a jarring visual effect. Dominating the right side of the canvas is a bright cadmium yellow circle, surrounding by blue organic lines, its strange shape possibly signifying a deadly parasite seen underneath a microscope or a massive sun with penetrating rays. On the right mid-ground of this painting there appears to be an abstract body, headless, misshapen and grotesque, reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s brutal treatment of the human body. A painting technique that bypasses the intellect, and is devoid of emotional expressiveness, coming straight from the central nervous system, it is as visually raw as it can get.
On the left side of the painting, Faiz displays artistic restraint through the placement of abstract shapes, washed out of colour underneath a prominent modernist grid.Well documented within the history of painting is the modernist grid, as an aesthetic object and as a symbol for democratic freedom, a freedom, which got consumed by the visual language of commercial design. The grid also symbolises a cage, a metaphorical prison that has engulfed a large majority of the painters from Faiz’s generation. Because the austerity and sacredness of the grid has been replaced with insincerity and cynicism, evident in the lack of artistic style to react against or any ideas worth proving to be true. Also a sense of authorship (art is a combination of other artist’s ideas) no longer exists, and her generation of artists are only left with the monetary value of painting, a quality significant enough to inspire them.
Faiz’s video art debut follows a similar philosophical path to her painting. This is evident by the fact that her Cartesian sense of subjective expression or personal authorship has been replaced by a growing cynicism, through creating art by the means of a mechanical-like archiving of factual data. Following the artistic tradition of using video as a visual archiving tool; Faiz’s six-channel video work, ‘Apartment’ (2014) documents her domestic living experience while living abroad in Vienna, Austria. The video footage varies in content; there is a scene with her in a kitchen cutting up vegetables, another with her anxiously flipping through a book, most likely a sign of boredom, and her lying in bed, eyes wide open or looking out a window, patiently waiting for someone who never arrives.
Her video art presents us with the isolation and mundaneness in routine that is experienced living overseas, a more common occurrence in our global society. Conceived through video footage, with frankness, and a claustrophobic-style direction, which is both objective and impersonal. The video footage has the visual characteristics that suggest a certain degree of rawness and realism, especially when we compare it with other imagery we frequently view, such as the imagery produced from the image sharing technology Instagram. Even though Faiz’s video artwork has six different sets of footage playing at the same time, with much repetitiveness, it is easily digestible, and very much a normalised viewing experience.
Through our use of Instagram, we digest a plethora of imagery from different users, from different countries, and different time zones. A grand puzzle of visual communication with few textual footnotes, a temporal montage of images, consumed as a series of fleeting moments that are easily forgotten. Fleeting moments of disassociated images that doesn’t have anything to do with our own personal lives, a sign of voyeurism; images of a snow capped mountain taken by a friend during their last holiday or images of a street market in a foreign city, followed by a multitude of selfies of people we scarcely recognise. However, in Faiz’s video work, there is a sign of shared experiences, in the way the video footage is deconstructed through repetition, a critical discourse on the original versus fabricated, and first and second degree replicated experiences, a psychological effect of real experience, which conveys the feeling of the surreal moment.
One of the many interesting things about this exhibition is that it mirrors the repeated and cyclic nature of challenges that art faces to remain relevant. Paul Taylor and Art and Text looked to the future, through intellectual discourse, to meet these challenges, while Suzy Faiz’s Video One Painting is reflecting on the past, attempting to reinvent past successes to meet the demands of the future of art, not yet determined.
– James Aksman-Glosz
James Aksman-Glosz is an arts writer and a practising artist whose work places emphasis on painting, drawing and printmedia. He holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Previously he studied at Kunstakadamie Düsseldorf. With further study at the Sydney Gallery School obtaining an Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts (printmaking), and at the NADC (Nepean Arts and Design Centre) obtaining a Diploma of Fine Arts (painting and printmaking). More recently he was the Master Printer for Matthys Gerber with the works being exhibited in Hot Art—Cold Market (2012), Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N), Sydney.
Airspace Projects can be found at http://airspaceprojects.com/
Suzy Faiz can be found at http://www.suzyfaiz.com/