Miniature Minutiae by Katherine Clayton, exhibited at Paper Mountain Gallery.
Brisbane artist Katherine Clayton visits Perth with a small collection of artwork, currently housed at Paper Mountain gallery in Northbridge. The first response when walking into the gallery was initially one of surprise; when Clayton says “miniature”, she means it.
The open space of the Paper Mountain gallery has largely been left bare. Visitors could easily miss the exhibits themselves if they were walking by with a less-than-careful glance. When I entered the room, it was this open gallery’s white space that set the first strong tone – the pieces themselves are almost hidden by the space. However, as you adjust to the setting, each miniature artwork rises into prominence. There are no set directions for the exhibition, but a story seems to unfold as you walk. Clayton wants her viewers purposeful and inquisitive, looking more closely rather than stepping backwards to take in the overall effect. Rather than anticipating a large number of small pieces, viewers have to tread carefully and lean in to appreciate her work.
The main features in this exhibit are inherently fragile. In one piece, arrangements of coloured stones and water droplets are set in the middle of the floor, so patrons have to mind their step. Another piece uses a small stool, with a careful little pattern of coloured stones set upon it. The other ground-based piece features on one a promotional poster and is pictured below – a piece of roughly cut stone with a small, papery flower “growing” from it. Set upon a pink plate, it creates a series of contrasts and questions as the natural and the human-made come together in strangely harmonious ways. Clayton encourages the viewer to appreciate these engagements on a smaller physical scale, but sizeable symbolic level.
Clayton’s artistic direction is towards the natural, but with a small human influence, teasing out a new angle from the materials. Her touch is purposeful. Nothing is wasted, and much is left to hang on simplicity and implication. The viewer is given even another purpose: to construct a narrative out of the fragments on offer.
This is particularly compounded in Clayton’s featured collection of eight pencil drawings. Upon first glance and from a distance, the paper almost looks to be bare. Upon closer inspection, neat pencil drawings of plants emerge. Brief captions accompany each one. Sometimes these are only a single word to denote what kind of plant is being featured, but as you walk down the line of drawings, more of a story begins to emerge. These are drawings of plants that grow in the artist’s garden, her neighbour’s garden, or chosen because they are a beautiful, favoured colour. These tiny attentions to detail build an intimate portrait of the artist, but there is still a secretive atmosphere.
Similarly, Clayton’s wall-based pieces are delicate and personal. A pair of coppery leaves is set at eye-level in one bare wall, pictured above. A crumpled picture of a flower is neatly pinned to another. In both instances the viewer could easily miss their appearance, and must circle back for a closer look. Miniature Minutiae is all about interrupting the hasty flow of vision and directing the viewer to slow down and savour the details. The sense of peace and privacy in the gallery boosts this even more so. The natural and the personal are entwined in a fragmentary way, encouraging viewers to assess how the images are constructed individually to build a picture – which, if not larger is still certainly condensed – of respectful co-habitation and gentle impositions of identity on the outside world.
Paper Mountain is open daily from 9.30am-5pm. Miniature Minutiae will be open from 26 February until 13 March 2016. More about the exhibit can be found here: http://papermountain.org.au/program_items/miniature-minutiae-2/
– Siobhan Hodge
Siobhan Hodge has a doctorate from the University of Western Australia in English. Her thesis focused on Sappho’s legacy in English translations. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review, Reviews Editor for Writ Review, and contributing reviewer for Cordite. Born in the UK, she divides her time between Australia and Hong Kong. Her chapbook of reflections on Sappho, Picking Up the Pieces, was published in 2012 as part of the Wide Range Chapbooks series. She has also had poetry and criticism published in several places, including Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.