The incredulity of the painter: Lisa Sharp reviews Jordan Richardson’s exhibition, ‘Shadows on a cave wall’

Jordan Richardson: Shadows on a cave wall. 15 November to 2 December 2017. Michael Reid Sydney, Surry Hills.

Jordan Richardson paints from a place of incredulity and with this approach he appears to deliberately defy easy categorisation as a figurative painter. His practice embraces painting from many directions. The use of figuration, at which he is undeniably technically accomplished, is just one of the many vehicles for carrying the narrative of painting itself. Here is a painter as much committed to portraying the image of the body, as he is to plying the slippery matter of paint’s body. All the while, the paintings quote, reference and improvise the familiar tropes of art history from the canon of Western easel painting. The visual effect of these disparate elements is somewhat slippery too. As a viewer, one can’t help but feel slightly left out of what sometimes feels like the artist’s personal joke. Narrative is hinted at and frequently ambiguous. Paint slips from being unseen under a virtuosic likeness, to surface presentation as freshly squeezed lushness, and to anatomical dissection, as its mysterious workings are revealed as if through an x-ray. Titles hint at humour and mystery but are impenetrable. Richardson’s multiple perspectives are bound to the fluidity of what painting is and brought together in this exhibition of a new body of work at Michael Reid Sydney, appropriately titled Shadows on a Cave Wall.

Jordan Richardson The Robe 2017, oil on canvas

Jordan Richardson, The Robe, 2017, oil on canvas, 182.5 x 304.7 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

Shadows and their tenuous connection to the forms that cast them, are interesting to consider conceptually as they apply to Richardson’s subjects and imagery. In this suite of works, as previously, there is a discernible melding of figuration, portraiture and biography. Richardson paints himself and those close to him into his works, creating a recognisable cast of characters. The king, the joker, the girl, and himself, appear over and again, donning a procession of costumes and personas. In addition, there are the painted images of drapery, flowers and poses, pictorial tropes from art history, suggesting dislocation and fracture from context. Positioning himself as painter-puppeteer, Richardson’s own painted avatar is almost but not definitively visible as The Colossus as much as he was once a Goya-esque corpse. In this, he very much inhabits his own paintings, commentating from within and without the canvas.


Jordan Richardson, The Colossus, 2017, oil on canvas, 167.5 x 152 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

Richardson describes this exhibition as ‘an exploration of storytelling through the medium of painting’. Paradoxically, it is painting’s failing at explicit storytelling, that creates such a fascinating, open-ended and shadowy parade of pictures. It is a technique that revels in the fallibility of painting as chronicler. Similarly, elusive is the tale of paint itself, and Richardson nominates this as a parallel concern. Obvious in his works is a deep joy and reverence for paint that is handled so knowingly as to reveal its physical traces, tactile qualities and slippages from opacity to transparency. Passages of pure colour burst forth in an accretion of brushstrokes that slip from depicting a petal to simply portraying the languid sweep of a loaded brush. If in painting the shift from illusion to abstraction was a shift from thinking of painting as window to surface, both are present here. The story Richardson tells is as much about didactic deployment of the medium as its place in art history and conservation.

So, the question of our contemporary art age, ‘why paint?’ is transmutated into ‘why painting?’, and this is why. Painting for Richardson is inquiry, into the personal, the material and the historical. Painting is to skilfully fabricate an illusion only to lift the surface and probe beneath, into its construction and past. Painting is subjective windows hung on walls. Painting is pigment bound in oil, solvent lapping at the edges between fluidity and paste. Painting is a history of painting, a weighty narrative collapsing from Giotto to the present. Painting is a flicker of expression on a well-known face. Painting is ritual, brushing downward daubs of ultramarine blue into the deep space of flat canvas, with the knowledge that this same blue was characterised by Kandinsky as having the soft texture of velvet, or by Klein as a dive into the void. Painting is a decision followed by a change of mind, doubt revealed in pentimento. So, this painter paints on, asking the questions and finding shadowy answers.


Jordan Richardson, Floromancy II, 2017, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 cm. photograph by Toby Meagher (2017)

The sense of keen inquiry is visible in the paintings. There are passages where the paint, deliciously blended, modulated and liquid as it describes a downcast gaze, stops suddenly on an upturned chin, becoming thin and fugitive as it bares the canvas textile and exposes quick movements of the brush. The titling of the smaller flower pieces as Floramancy, alludes to a mixture of mania and magic. Elsewhere, the sheer scale of works such as The Robe enables a wide-open expanse of pictorial space for the discourse between subject, story, paint and painting to unfold.

There’s a celebrated subject in art history, which has been painted many times. It relates an episode of incredulity in which a doubting disciple tests his scepticism by poking a gnarled and stubby finger into the open spear-wound of a resurrected messiah figure.[i] It is an oft-repeated image, a delicious, awful probing of painted flesh, and is appropriate for Richardson’s approach. This new suite of paintings, these Shadows on a Cave Wall, are located at an expansive moment of incredulity, the pause before faith. For incredulity, slipperiness and ambiguity not only underlie Richardson’s imagery, but also are present in his treatment of paint. His has an alchemical interest in animating the inanimate matter, the oil and stone, of painting. Technical knowledge and mastery mingle with smeared paint and visible moments of doubt. This is Jordan Richardson: the painter with incredulity cured as he touches the painted body.

-Lisa Sharp

[i] The Incredulity of St Thomas has been painted by Vasari, Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, among many others.


‘The incredulity of the painter’ by Lisa Sharp is the catalogue essay for Jordan Richardson’s exhibition ‘Shadows on a cave wall’ at the gallery, Michael Reid Sydney. It has been republished in Rochford Street Review with the permission of the author. Images courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Sydney and Berlin.

Exhibition details:
Jordan Richardson
: Shadows on a cave wall
15 November to 2 December 2017
Michael Reid Sydney
Standard House,
105 Kippax Street,
(enter from Waterloo Street)
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010


Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer, curator and co-gallery manager. Following an earlier career in law, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours in Painting from the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists. Her blog is 


“Held in suspense”: Amarie Bergman reviews Christopher Gulick’s residency and exhibition at Factory 49

Christopher Gulick’s residency-workshop-performance-exhibition. Factory 49, Main Showroom. Monday 16 October – Saturday 11 November 2017.


View 1, in-process, residency-workshop-performance-exhibition by Christopher Gulick, Factory 49, Sydney. image courtesy of the artist (2017).

Christopher Gulick, an American artist renowned for building kinetic, mobile sculptures, transformed Factory 49 during his three-week residency-workshop-performance-exhibition from Monday, 16 October to Saturday, 11 November. Visitors were encouraged to engage with the project as Gulick responded to the space around him and invited to attend the finissage on Friday, 10 November.

The universe is in a constant state of change. Christopher Gulick presented us with concrete evidence of space-time’s temporal poignancy by energising the Main Showroom at Factory 49 with an informal suite of angular and curvilinear projection-relief sculptures. Such a construct could have been kindled in the 20th century in two-dimensions by Matisse while making his most edited cut-outs. It also recalls Arshile Gorky’s ‘Child’s Companions’ (1945), Mondrian’s balanced black and coloured subdivisions in the last grid paintings with a generosity of white galaxies, and Kandinsky and Joan Miro’s ability to seemingly levitate flat forms.


View 2, in-process, residency-workshop-performance-exhibition by Christopher Gulick, Factory 49, Sydney. image courtesy of the artist (2017).

Gulick prototypes his own unique three-dimensional work with visible graphite drawings that combine repetitive, intertwined geometric patterning and straight lines. While he may think of this ‘wallpaper’ as scribbled designs, the drawings are clearly impressive. Gulick has an extensive history of constructing kinetic, mobile sculptures, including large-scale permanent installations, and fabrications in the automotive and aeronautic fields. In the process, he appears to have inadvertently tapped into the five definitive observations about gravitational waves.

The latest observation by the U.S. based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European based Virgo detector was confirmed on 17 October 2017 in Washington D.C., coincidentally the day Gulick began ‘the build’ in Sydney. According to LIGO, scientists detected gravitational waves, ‘ripples in spacetime’, in addition to light from the collision of two neutron stars. The findings verify we’re being stretched and squeezed because everything is being warped all the time, black holes exist and can orbit one another, short-duration gamma ray bursts are neutron star mergers, and the lightest elements were created in the Big Bang. Those of medium weight are made either by stars or supernova, while the heaviest elements materialise through neutron star collisions. With its most recent detection, LIGO has been able to measure the expansion of the universe.


View 3, in-process, residency-workshop-performance-exhibition by Christopher Gulick, Factory 49, Sydney. image courtesy of the artist (2017).

So, how do these astrophysical discoveries relate to Gulick and his site-specific project at Factory 49? To begin with, Gulick knows two-dimensional/ symmetrical/ geometric shapes have an inherent purity. When they are modified, even by a slight stretch or squeeze, their simplicity metamorphically changes into three-dimensional/ asymmetrical/ near-geometric ones. Particularly, if surfaces of the shaped sculptures are not overly textured, they read as ‘uncrafted’ or uncontrived, that is, as minimalist, non-objective forms.

Black Holes can be described as areas of darkness in space where no light is let out, rather it is captured as particles or waves by gravity. Likewise, Gulick incorporates black and other monochromatic individual solids for the same effect. He also fashions smoothly edged oval or circular openings for some of the sculptures as White Holes. Light is generated in and out of these ‘windows’ so it literally lightens physical mass and, by association, the entire gallery.

Interestingly, perceptions about the density of lightweight and heavier materials are transmitted to the viewer as differing weights without having to hold or weigh them. The variety of locally-sourced materials: lustrous aluminium and recycled plastic and especially, the fabric-covered foam brassiere inserts, elicit a frisson of excitement by their newly repurposed elemental contrasts.

2.1 GULICK post-process 2017 IMG_2759

View 4, post-process, residency-workshop-performance-exhibition by Christopher Gulick, Factory 49, Sydney. image courtesy of the artist (2017).

Arcs and rods of steel, supplemented by vintage knitting needles, and fastened to the gyprock, echo the prototypal designs. Held in suspense, with or without an attached sculpture, each piece of steel has poise. Now and then, almost imperceptibly, some of them twizzle in the air currents. Additions, unifications and a few subtractions took place daily. While not really melding into overt gamma ray bursts, repeat motifs have a way of amalgamating together by their similarities. When looked at sideways from non-frontal angles, various sculptures either completely or partially merge. Doubtless, they would appear to fuse in a speed-quickened dioramic video.

Gulick exposes us to his personal level of intuitive response when interacting with the unpredictability of the unknown. Moreover, with organic naturalness of the marrow of form, his expansive universe at Factory 49 has an inevitable quality. Every decision, at each stage of the project, seems right. On the evening of 10 November during the finissage, long after the tool box and sturdy, jury-rigged work desk were packed up and the drawings removed, the sculptures revealed themselves as precisely measured objects, co-mingling in the delights of tactile visuality.

-Amarie Bergman

2.2 GULICK post-process 2017 IMG_2769

View 5, post-process, residency-workshop-performance-exhibition by Christopher Gulick, Factory 49, Sydney. image courtesy of the artist (2017).


Christopher Gulick’s residency-workshop-performance-exhibition

Factory 49, Main Showroom
Monday, 16 October to Saturday, 11 November 2017
49 Shepherd Street,
Sydney, NSW, 2204
(02) 9572 9863

Christopher Gulick at Factory 49

Christopher Gulick’s website

Amarie Bergman formulates and makes reductive art, showing her work at non-objective art galleries located in Melbourne, Sydney and Paris. Amarie’s reviews have been published in artUS and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art.


Sonorous and Wistful: Siobhan Hodge reviews “Forgiving Night for Day” by Jacobus Capone

“Forgiving Night for Day” is showing at PICA, Northbridge from 18 February to 16 April.

img_4607Australian artist Jacobus Capone’s latest installation at PICA has its roots in Lisbon, responding to both a Portuguese musical tradition and the Portuguese term, “saudade”, which reflects deep nostalgia and a longing for people. This sombre tone is well captured in the darkened setting of the PICA gallery.

Projectors show restricted viewpoints, set at different levels around the gallery. These are occupied by lone figures, looking out over different parts of the city of Lisbon at day, on different days. Men and women look away from one another, and one at a time sing the Portuguese translation of Capone’s English-language poem. These acts of translation, casting, shooting and then display all compound a sense of remoteness and unavoidable distance. The source material and even the singers are all pointedly removed from one another. At dawn for seven days, a different Fado singer performs the poem. The overall impact, for a viewer sitting in the darkened room, is one that oscillates between deeply melancholic and determinedly hopeful.

Taigo Torres da Silva has translated Capone’s piece from English, the full text of which is printed on the wall at the entry to the exhibit. The piece is a meditation on the connections between place, self, and time.

Forgiving Night for Day


I die each day at dawn

only to be reborn at dusk

The four cornered night sky my enabler

cradles my being

and within its darkness I become I.


Guided by uncertain co-ordinates

I roam the city’s streets

a foreigner to humankind

feeling with my thoughts

and thinking with my feelings.


The city sleeps, the streets fall silent

As my shadow carries my spirit

out to the edge of the night

only to return me back where I begun.


Time rests in pause

whilst the universe awakens from slumber

and the world half opens to reveal

a moment without weight or duration.


Whoever I was yesterday ceases

as its apparition journeys into morning light

welcoming all chance encounters

with silent reverence

and farewells each former self shed.


There is a cyclic nature to this journey to self-awareness, ultimately progressing beyond the melancholy roots of saludade, to a more optimistic feeling of growth, making on-going meanings out of all fleeting encounters. Alienation and uncertainty are ultimately undercut by the speaker’s burgeoning comprehension of universal facts, their position within these complex systems, and subtly supportive images embedded within the poem.

This is the atmosphere that permeates the gallery; though the speakers do not face one another, they do not appear disparately lonely. The longing of their voices is cast out over the city, yet ultimately appears inward, self-reflective. Forgiving Night for Day takes a potentially grim focal point and turns it into a more uplifting meditation, creating a similarly meditative space for viewers within the space.


Forgiving Night for Day is being held from 18th February to 16th April 2017 at PICA, Northbridge. For more information, please see the event page here.


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 Westerly, Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.


A thought-provoking, immersive multimedia experience: Zalehah Turner reviews ‘EXIT’ at UNSW Galleries

EXIT (2008/2015) created by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen, and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith. UNSW Galleries – Part of the Sydney Festival. 7 January to 25 March 2017.

EXIT is a monument to the present time that traces the movement of our world.”- Hervé Chandès, General Director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris.


EXIT (2008-2015). view of the installation, EXIT. collection: Fondation Cartier pou l’art contemporain, Paris. Diller Socfidio+ Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen, and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith. photo by Luc Boegly.

As part of the Sydney Festival, UNSW Galleries presents the Australian premiere of EXIT, a 360-degree immersive installation based on a concept by philosopher and urbanist, Paul Virilio and commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain for its 2008 exhibition, Native Land, Stop Eject. Hervé Chandès, General Director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris stated that, “EXIT is a monument to the present time that traces the movement of our world.” Updated in 2015 for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, EXIT is an impressive multidisciplinary team effort created by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a New York-based studio of artists and architects, in collaboration with Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen, Ben Rubin, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, Stewart Smith, and a team of scientists and geographers.

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore who opened the exhibition at UNSW Galleries on 6 January 2017, declared that EXIT was “riveting, overwhelming and informative” and “one of the most powerful exhibitions of our time.” Clover Moore had first seen it in Paris in 2015 and was instrumental in bringing it to Australia for the 2017 Sydney Festival.

EXIT runs from 7 January to 25 March at UNSW Galleries and is free to the public. It reflects the university’s desire to push the boundaries between art and technology; as well as its ambition to situate itself at the forefront of debate and policy response to the biggest issues of our time.

EXIT – Virilio, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Hansen, Kurgan, Rubin, Pietrusko, Smith – 2008-2015. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. 30 November 2015.

The 45-minute multimedia work breathes life into statistics gathered from over one hundred sources reflecting the increasing pressures which the world faces today, including the unprecedented rise in displaced populations; migrants and refugees who are forced to leave their homes. The audio and visual impact of EXIT creates a sense of urgency with a 3D panoramic view of an orbiting globe moving across the screen in almost full circle, broken only by the entrance and exit. Each time it begins its cycle, the audience is stuck by the visual and auditory representation of data and statistics which fall under the six themes: Population Shifts: Cities, Remittances: Sending Money Home, Political Refugees and Forced Migration, Natural Disasters, Rising Seas and Sinking Cities, and Speechless and Deforestation.

The data collected from a variety of sources has been geo-coded, processed through a programming language, and translated visually to provide the greatest impact. One can’t help but feel a sense of dread. EXIT is a projection of the present, an insight into the future and a call to action. The multimedia event is art as social commentary. The six themes of EXIT cover significant issues with the animated facts and figures behind the events designed to provoke thought, encourage discussions and initiate change.

Terre Natale, Ailleurs commence ici – Paul Virilio – 2009. Produced by Axelle Poisson. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. 10 November 2015.

Upon entering and leaving EXIT at UNSW Galleries, the audience is addressed by Paul Virilio who discusses the central themes and the impact of climate change whilst walking towards the viewer in a video in French with English subtitles commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2009. Virilio asserts that, “It is almost as if history is on the move again.” Adding that, “It’s almost as though the sky, and the clouds in it and the pollution of it, were making their entry into history. Not the history of the seasons, summer, autumn, winter, but of population flows, of zones now uninhabitable for reasons that aren’t just to do with desertification, but with disappearance, with submersion of land. This is the future.”

UNSW Galleries Director Felicity Fenner confirmed that, “This is a must-see ‘wake-up call’ to Australian audiences.” She added that, “EXIT encapsulates three of the Grand Challenges currently being investigated by UNSW researchers – climate change, refugees, and global inequality.” As part of their Grand Challenges initiative, UNSW has organised a program of public discussions which includes a talk given by EXIT’s US-based creators.

EXIT at UNSW Galleries is a thought-provoking, immersive multimedia experience that is essential viewing and one of the visual art highlights of this Sydney Festival.

-Zalehah Turner

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

exhibition: EXIT
where: UNSW Galleries cnr. Oxford St and Greens Rd, Paddington, NSW 2021.
dates: 7 January – 25 March 2017
opening hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm
cost: free