The Absence of Painting: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Joe Wilson Painting etc’ at STACKS PROJECTS

Joe Wilson Painting etc. catalogue essay. An exhibition at STACKS Projects artist run gallery and project space, 191 Victoria Rd, Potts Point, NSW runs from 21 September to 8 October, 2017.

So, what has happened when you go to an exhibition of paintings only to find that Painting has turned its back and left the room? This is a room you may find yourself in at one of Joe Wilson’s exhibitions and it is a provocative quandary when encountering his work. Left inside the room are a collection of objects, that point to the absence of Painting, much as a recent departure from the stage of a Big Personality. There is a sense of having just missed the main act, tempered by a little uncertainty about the objects left scattered on stage. The end-of concert announcement ‘Elvis has left the building’ comes to mind.

In this room, the works tell of painting through its absence. They do this by adopting its familiar form, referencing formalism, and by utilising a pseudo-materiality that is filled with insight and humour. Carefully assembled is a collection of objects that are associated with and which indubitably point to painting. They point to the imprimatur of painting and not, as one might expect, the well-mined arenas of painting activity as inspired spiritual process, its medium as skill-based, its output as an aesthetically valued product for lengthy gazing upon. The material elements of painting are not present but are recognisable in their absence, through references, substitution and word play. For Joe Wilson lays bare, as if on a stage the entire set of conventions that surround an exhibition of paintings. A Wilson exhibition is a work site and the works are exhibited as moveable and transitory artefacts of the exhibition apparatus – the making, staging, crating, transport and installation of painting.

Joe Wilson, ‘Half Arsed’, 2017. Acrylic and timber, 42 x 42 x 7 cm
(Image courtesy the artist)

As a mere viewer you will be caught up in this staging, as your role in the gallery is assessed. Within the exhibition space of Painting etc, you may find that your entry is facilitated but your spectating can be confounded by the transitory narrative conveyed by the works. The shop-like window of the gallery displays a blue painting bespoke-packed in an orange suitcase. On entry, The Hand, 2017 a hand-rail painted in safety yellow seems to escort, support and guide you in your viewing journey. Then you see paintings in various stages of installation – wrapped for travel, leaning on a wall, hung. Usually white monochromes, they resist being seen again whenever, they remain resolutely crated and unpacked. Occasionally mounted plinth-like on white pallets these works take on a monumental, if slightly absurdist quality. The packing pallet, with its irresistible homophonic reference to a painter’s palette is a recurring Wilson motif, and a gently satirical dig at the paraphernalia, the etcetera of painting, that is the subject of the exhibition.

Clearly at home in the gallery, and fluent in the non-objective vernacular, the works are clean-lined, restrained, well-crafted objects presented in an elegant and reductive vocabulary. You see timber frames, flat colours, monochromatic surfaces, geometric compositions, ready-mades and rectilinearity. It is familiar, and almost too well -done. There is a tension in the room, and it’s a tension created from flawless execution undercut by absence. In a strange inversion of their objecthood, the works resemble – maybe even mimic – images, functioning as reflections, understudies and surrogates of painting. In doing so, the works take on the appearance, semblance, expectation, the simulacra of art, as if what we know and have come to expect of painting has been held up to a mirror, and reproduced.

Situating himself as a painter, Joe Wilson, who also works as an art installer and art school studio technician, is broadly concerned with “elements, situational and compositional, beyond the confines of the painter’s canvas”. Indeed his recent research for his Masters of Fine Art posited painting as Dislocated Object and examined Mobility and Transfer in the Presentation of Painting. And when painting is transient, on the move, or just passing through, then its absence becomes very much a concept explored within each exhibition. Absence is instigated, and then perpetuated by the works’ consideration of the marginalia of roles and agencies that take place behind and beyond the surface of painting. In talking to Joe, he elaborates on a theory he has about the object-image dichotomy, (a central tenet dating from the birth of non-objective painting), seeing it rather as an object-image collusion. This is a co-dependant relationship specific to our contemporary age of ubiquitous media, where the image can not only extend the reach of the object, but also become a work in its own right.

Joe Wilson, ‘Digital collage 3 (thinker)’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist

Another, instance of painting turning its back on a room was Wilson’s earlier exhibition Verso (February 2017, Rayner Hoff Space, National Art School). A verso is a technical term for the reverse side of a painting and in considering painting’s verso we are looking at its back. In that show, the physical site had been renovated to preserve multiple layers of the building’s prosaically utilitarian use, and this facilitated the presentation of painting’s absence in utilitarian disguise. A dolly, a ramp, crates, ladders and flights of steps were interwoven with the presentation of paintings on the walls, suggesting movement, transition and production. In several works, with disarming conceptual perspicacity, Wilson uses chroma-key paint as well as textiles as canvas. A chroma- key is not only a ready-made colour monochrome but is blue / green colour keyed to ‘disappear’ digitally,

The use of a disappearing colour for an exhibition of absent paintings recalls a tale from early painting mythology. The ancient Greek myth of Zeuxis and Parrhasios had two renowned painters in a contest. While Zeuxis produced a painting superior in illusion (birds flew down to taste the painted grapes) it was Parrrhasios who won, for his painting of a curtain which had deceived everyone. The point of the story was not that the curtain was particularly well painted, but that the viewers didn’t see it as painting because they didn’t expect to see it. Instead, the viewers placed all their hope and anticipation in painting that was not there, but was absent.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Painting has left the building. Thank you and goodnight.

 – Lisa Sharp

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and working in Sydney. Following an earlier career in the law, she recently attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours in Painting) at the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists and blogs at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com 

Details of the exhibition can be found at http://www.stacksprojects.com/

Nests in Everyday Things: Lisa Sharp Reviews ‘Found & Made’ a Group Exhibition including Annelies Jahn

The exhibition FOUND and MADE, including Annelies Jahn, Pollyxenia Joannou, Joe Wilson and Michael Bennett and curated by Amber Hearn, is on at Stacks Projects, 191 Victoria St. Potts Point until Sunday 12 March 2017.

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“ The mind sees and continues to see objects,
while the spirit finds the nest of immensity in an object.”

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958), 190

With a discerning sensitivity, artist Annelies Jahn seeks out the potential for moments of poetry embedded within, even disguised as, the everyday. These may consist of seemingly mundane objects, apparently discarded things, the measured and drawn space occupied by her works, her studio or her body. Carefully selected (found), then made (or re-made) and presented as art works these objects or sites are re-presented, and in this re-enactment an unanticipated encounter presents itself. The familiar, the known and the disposable become unfamiliar, unknown and fixed in the mind; a poetic space.

In her consistent exploration and evocation of space as a finite container of infinite possibility, Jahn evokes the idea, so well described by Bachelard, of space as having a quality of intimate immensity. We look and with our minds we see the work and it is a familiar object. As we look longer, we begin to perceive more; prompted by a whisper of memory or a moment of deeper recognition. Jahn’s work, this art object, whether a made, found or a repurposed thing, is often small, deceptively simple, frequently provisional, yet it has been made visible by selection, vulnerable by display, and the encounter invites a falling into a reverie of meditation. This is the nest of immensity; the warmth of contemplative discovery which Bachelard described as a species of daydreaming.

Compressed Measure, Silver foil wash tape housed in found acrylic box, 17.5 x 6.5 x 3 cm

The group exhibition Found and Made includes three pieces, found and made by Jahn. There is ‘Flatpack’, a cardboard piece of disarming humility. There, the usual container for space, a box, is flattened, excluding physical space from its planar form. Then there are two related works; ‘A resting Measure’ and ‘Compressed Measure’. The first is a clear, manufactured rectangular acrylic prism, placed horizontally on the floor. The second is a carefully coiled bundle of silver wash tape, housed within an open, clear acrylic box. One shape is formed and derived from the artist’s body measurements, the other from a de-installation of a wall drawing, yet both are sealed, finite containers of physical space – whereas the space they evoke is not. The Bachelardian idea of a nest within the object perfectly captures that daydream of space as an unseen presence that expands and contracts, like breathing.

Flatpack and A resting measure, Cardboard 130 x 92 x 20 cm and Clear acrylic 25 x 162.5 x 25 cm

While dream-like, these encounters arise out of rational systems of visual-spatial representation that always underlie Jahn’s work. Attention is drawn to the geometry of forms, composition, balance and location in space. There is an absence of gesture, drama, scale and permanence. Instead there is stillness, exact placement, intense observation, nuance, care and ephemerality. We are left to ponder how, (yes how) such rectlinearity so welcomes human complexity.(Stilgoe, John R. Foreword to Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958)

And so we see and we ponder … could the slivers of a modulated conversation be wound tight and contained in a roll of used tape? Is a crumpled relationship mapped by the soft sagging of flattened cardboard? And can an artist’s footprint cascade into a crisp-edged clarity of light, precise planes and right angles …

 – Lisa Sharp

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(All images courtesy of the artist, Annelies Jahn)

Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and working in Sydney. Following an earlier career in the law, she recently attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours in Painting) at the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists and her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

Exhibition details are available at http://www.stacksprojects.com/

To sky, to ground, to sea, to see: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Luminescent’, an exhibition by Fiona Ryan

Luminescent, an exhibition by Fiona Ryan, is showing at Gallery Klei (Suite 9,
1-7 Albion Place Sydney) until 11 March.

The practice, and verb – of skying – were so named by John Constable. The activity captured by the word connotes that furious intensity intrinsic to evocative skyscape painting. It is an activity of forceful conflation: the painter’s outward eye observing the vast subject overhead, the inward eye translating with memories of other known skies, the hand as agent between the two – mixing, brushing, painting, scrubbing into the fibres of the canvas.¹

Ablaze, 2017, oil on board (Image: Gallery Klei)

Ablaze, 2017, oil on board (Image: Gallery Klei)

Fiona Ryan’s recent paintings at Gallery Klei capture this energetic painterly posture, and she acknowledges Constable, Turner and Monet as influences. This is interesting for a contemporary Australian painter given the long tradition of landscape painting available. However Ryan’s point of departure from that tradition is perhaps the consistent prominence she gives to sky over ground, or sea. Horizons are dropped low, absent or vaguely defined. Another is that while Ryan’s works so plainly speak of the vastness of space in an open sky, they are made in her studio from remembered skies. She now lives on the South coast of New South Wales, however spent a formative time at Ikuntji Arts Centre at Haasts Bluff in the Northern Territory, under what she recounts as very memorable wide desert skies.

The paintings on exhibition are marked by an action of making so patently visible as marks, daubs and strokes of colour on the surface that the making and seeing of the scene are brought together in the painting. Yet while the premise of skying is European and Romantic, these pictures are fictive sketches (Ryan terms them “non places really”). This ambiguity is repeated pictorially, particularly in the most recent works. In the absence of an ideal landscape or place, the painting itself is an intuitive exploration of the ability of oil paint to convey the effects of changing light and expansive space. In the midst of this hazy border zone, the works perch somewhere between abstraction and representation.

Luminescent, 2017, oil on canvas, 122 x 100 cm (Image: Gallery Klei)

Luminescent, 2017, oil on canvas, 122 x 100 cm (Image: Gallery Klei)

Luminescent is reminder of the powerful presence of the natural landscape and its ability to provide inspiration and escapism, for the painter as well as the viewer.
The exhibition Fiona Ryan: ‘Luminescent’ is showing at Galery Klei until 11 March 2017.

¹“They flash upon that inward eye / which is the bliss of solitude” from William Wordsworth, I wandered, lonely as a cloud, 1807.

 – Lisa Sharp


Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and working in Sydney. Following an earlier career in the law, she recently attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours in Painting) at the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists and her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

Exhibition details available at http://www.galleryklei.com.au/

Quoting the Art: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Time After Time’ an exhibition by Ken Weathersby

Time After Time by Ken Weathersby at Minus Space, 16 Main Street, Suite A, Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA

This is a review of an exhibition I haven’t seen. Well I haven’t seen it in person – there is a bit of an art world adage that you have to stand before great paintings to absorb them fully. To inhale the whiff of paint, to behold the smear of a precise shade of colour, decipher some infinitesimal mark, a slavish detail of the surface, to read the insights into the mystique of making only told by close observation of a dripping or crafted edge.

Ken Weathersby: Time After Time at Minus Space, installation view (Image courtesy Minus Space)

Ken Weathersby: Time After Time at Minus Space, installation view
(Image courtesy Minus Space)

Well I’ve seen this exhibition of Ken Weathersby’s recent paintings through the glassy gaze of my computer screen. It’s been a portal to the show currently showing at Minus Space, a gallery in Brooklyn New York specializing in international reductive art. So, no whiff, nor revelatory oily brushstroke here. It’s a wondrous portal this rectangle of glass – a sometime window, sometime screen, through which I can view images of paintings hanging on New York walls. To those who would argue a loss of sentience in the perceptual experience, there is perhaps a corresponding heightened lucidity. The effect, while bereft of aroma and human interaction, reduces picture after picture to pictorial trope, or sign, in an experience that seems infinitely repeatable (bookmarkable). The exhibition and its works are instantly accessible, making for a democratic, flattened version of a gallery visit. Beyond medium-specificity, my virtual visit is post-media and post-gallery as I gaze through and at successive images on the flat, even, blue-lit screen.

This brings up another art world maxim, this one from the origins of modernist abstraction – and that is the measure of success in creating push and pull; that tension between surface and window on a planar surface. Intriguingly, this tense little action is enacted not only in the experience of viewing-by-screen but is also a feature of Weathersby’s work. Using the same mode of display and with a similar sense of detachment, Ken Weathersby takes images from art history books, crops and frames them through cut-out windows within his paintings. The images are of ancient sculptures – familiar to art students of Western European-derived art history – so already have an iconic quality as purveyors of noble truths – and this facilitates their interpretation as tropes or signs for ‘art’. Embedded neatly in rectangular format within the linen canvas we see a bent marble neck, a little figure bristling with fertility, a serpentine contrapposto, a tousled head of gilded curls – with all the heft and weight of the tradition of ancient sculpture. Yet their significance within the works are not as representations of things in the world, but of lineage, the passing of time, the narrative of art history and its influence now.

Ken Weathersby, 258, 2016, acrylic on linen over panel, over panelcollage, 38 x 36 inches. (Image courtesy Minus Space)

Ken Weathersby, 258, 2016, acrylic on linen over panel, over panelcollage, 38 x 36 inches. (Image courtesy Minus Space)

The placement of these collaged historical images within the picture plane, often slightly to one side, occasionally tilted, but always small, is almost deferential or humble as against the rest of the pictorial activity. Weathersby seems to use the images as vague references for his precisely drawn gridded and geometrical abstractions. These abstract patternings often pick up on a colour, aspect of form or muted palette from the image, then repeating and elaborating upon it, like a melodic variation acting as counterpoint to the image.

On the walls, the scale and format of the works seem to allude to the authority of the form of the Book, as rectangular, portable repository of knowledge. On closer inspection (zooming in) this effect is only accentuated by occasional fragments of text, Weathersby’s use of pencil lines and other visible notations of his hand. These recall the well-thumbed familiarity of a text book much in use as a reference.

Ken Weathersby, 260, 2016, acrylic and graphite on linen, Collage, 40 x 30 inches. (Image courtesy Minus Space)

Ken Weathersby, 260, 2016, acrylic and graphite on linen, Collage, 40 x 30 inches. (Image courtesy Minus Space)

An artist and reviewer, Sharon Butler (fortunate enough to visit the exhibition in person) observes that the yellowing and aged papers of the art history texts are apparent in the paintings. She notes that the effect is to convey a collapsing of three different eras; the time of the sculpture, the time of the art text and the time of Weathersby’s inclusion in his paintings. This is a really valuable insight, as many artists in their studios conduct these sorts of temporal dialogues in their heads, and Weathersby manages to so eloquently communicate that familiar referential (and reverential) process within these concise, elegant and self-contained pictures.

What is surprising, and refreshing, is the ease of juxtaposition of the figurative with the abstract. There is in the history of abstract painting as it pulled away from representation, a certain cool posture of detachment from the world. It is a posture that has resulted in art variously labelled as the non-objective, the concrete, the formalist, the minimal and the reductive. However, art history through the ages is simply intrinsic to art and artists today. So the posture is also human, reflected in the desire for solitude – whether as a reader, artist in the studio, time traveller or internet browser, and and there is much recognition, and warmth in that aspect of Ken Weathersby’s recent paintings.

 – Lisa Sharp


Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and working in Sydney. Following an earlier career in the law, she recently attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with Honours in Painting) at the National Art School. Lisa likes to write and muse about art, art making and artists and her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

February 2017

(All images courtesy of Minus Space)

Ken Weathersby: Time After Time is on exhibition at Minus Space January 7 – February 25  http://www.minusspace.com/2016/11/ken-weathersby-time-after-time/

MINUS SPACE 16 Main Street, Suite A, Brooklyn, NY 11201 http://www.minusspace.com

 

Punctuated Into an Exclamation Mark: Lisa Sharp reviews ‘Play’, an exhibition by Michelle Le Dain

Michelle Le Dain – PLAY at Factory 49 , 49 Shepherd St, Marrickville. until 3rd December 2016

“Play becomes joy, joy becomes work, work becomes play.”
………………………………………………………..Johannes Itten

Michelle Le Dain, Upside down inside out, 2016 (detail). Image: Annelies Jahn

Michelle Le Dain, Upside down inside out, 2016 (detail). Image: Annelies Jahn

To play is to enter a realm of wonder and spontaneous activity, of open-ended
thinking, of chance and of discovery. It is to question, to turn upside-down, to
surprise – and it is uninhibitedly joyous. Yet to play is also to engage with the objects
in play, to work within a structure and to bounce against the rules – as in playing a
game or improvising musically. For visual artist Michelle Le Dain to play as an artist is
a mode of practice by which her installations enter, engage with and yes, absolutely
have fun with architectonic space.

For some time Le Dain has been working with and developing a signature vocabulary
of elemental geometric forms, bright colours, taped lines and placement of other
assemblages. These arise out of her research interest in theories of play (as
advanced by Froebel and the kindergarten movement) and their considerable
influence on the genesis of abstract art in the early 20th century. When these formal
elements enter a space as raw materials for installation, they seem to skip along the
floor, walls, ceiling, seeking out hidden nooks and cavorting with expected notions of
form and function. Playfully probing, discovering and exclaiming, Play raises some
very interesting questions about our expectations and perceptions of built spaces,
and in particular white spaces for the display of art.

As an installation within this factory-turned-gallery space Play picks up on its many
narratives as a functional interior space. Tripping along a seam in the concrete floor,
small wooden blocks tap out a rhythm of alternating colour and form. Picking up the
melody, a striped line ascends the white wall, almost but not quite to the top, before
meandering via a deviation in blue to an arrow-signalled descent, only to ascend
again. A faded yellow parking line is punctuated into an exclamation mark. Over to
the side, another up / down movement is articulated by horizontal and vertical notes
of colour placed on a stairway. These lead in to the percussive cadence of a work,
appropriately named “Xylophone”. On closer inspection, these ‘notes’ are actually
painted stretcher bars, suggesting a painting undone, dismantled and capable of
being fitted together again, like any tower of blocks.

Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details). Installation at Factory 49 Images: Annelies Jahn

Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details).  Installation at Factory 49
Images: Annelies Jahn

From factory space to gallery space, the play is now with gallery conventions of
display and sale. Giant red dots sit beside works, humorously playing with the
tradition of announcing a sale. In this context, plinths become oversized toy blocks.
Paintings, stacked, stripped and deconstructed, are everywhere except hanging on
the walls as pictures to look at. Framing, like pointing, is used to focus on often
quirky details of wall or floor. Used as expressive punctuation within a piece of
music, other features of the Factory 49 space are accented. Here, in hot pink: a door,
over there in green: a gallery wall ends. In a corner, big buttons seem to be climbing
up and over the white wall, looking over the boundary between the site’s industrial
past and its almost-white-cube present.

The effect of Play is akin to recalling the strains of a rhyme you knew as a child, a
ditty you chanted, a haunting refrain, parts of a song. You might go to see art, but
you are nudged to think quite a bit more about how and why. It’s a little unsettling.
Play has transformed the known space and the expected conventions into a joyous,
whimsical interlude with an underlying seriousness of purpose in showing the work
that art is.

play-3

Michelle Le Dain, Play, 2016, (details). Installation at Factory 49 Images: Annelies Jahn

 – Lisa Sharp
(all images by Annelies Jahn)

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and curator currently living and
working in Sydney. Following an earlier career as a lawyer, she holds a Bachelor of Fine
Arts (Honours) from the National Art School. Lisa likes to write about art and artists and
her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

More details of the exhibition Factory 49 are available at  http://factory49.blogspot.com.au/

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Plastic is the Colour: Lisa Sharp Reviews ‘Fantastik Plastik’ by Anya Pesce at Factory 49

Fantastik Plastik, an Exhibition by Anya Pesce at Factory 49 (Marrickville NSW) –  ran from 31 March until 9th April

Fantastik Plastik, as the title suggests is an accented, heady celebration of the colour-form poised in swirling motion.  In this body of work created by Anya Pesce, rectilinear monochrome painting has left the wall, dressed itself up in its brightest and shiniest paint skins and entered the gallery space in a skirt-lifting dance. If painting were a skin, or drapery rippling over skin, these works celebrate the liquidity of paint spreading over a surface. It is a deliberately sensuous show, and in this seduction by formal norms of beauty, it gently coaxes the viewer from the position of gazer to that of consumer.
For here, surface, colour and form are united in plastic in an exhibition that plays with the idea of what contemporary painting is. We can say that it is abstract, non-objective, about colour and form and our perception of those things, but we live in an age of plastic, so much more baggage to look at paintings with.

 

Artist Anya Pesce with her works at Factory 49. Photograph by Jim Gurieff

Artist Anya Pesce with her works at Factory 49. Photograph by Jim Gurieff

Plastic is the colour. Anya works with ready-made colour, selecting those intense, saturated hues that evoke the aesthetics of the display counter or buy-me packaging. In the works, there is a tendency to replicate the colours of specifically female-targeted consumerism; of cosmetics, lipsticks and handbags. Or it could be that she just likes bright colour. And a lot of it is red. After all, she isn’t using actual red lipstick, as L.A. artist Rachel Lachowicz does, but perhaps she may as well be. The painting pouts.

Plastic is the process. Starting with a rectangular flat piece of heated plastic (poly methyl methacrylate), the warm, malleable substance is coaxed, manipulated and posed – much like paint – into rippling folds and waves, in which the process itself determines the composition. The result is that the formerly austere, flat monochrome planes have given way to theatrical gestures. Their forms now allude to draped fabric, maybe in homage to virtuosic painterly tradition, or the runway. The painting strikes a pose.

Plastic is the medium. The ultimate invention of the post-industrial technological age, it is the material of packaging, display and waste. Freed of the frame, plastic is, unlike paint, a skin that is brittle enough to provide its own support. It is strong and durable. It fills landfill and whale’s stomachs. Yet it is beautiful, repeatable, desirable and available in a full range of opaque and transparent colours. The painting is product; at once desirable and dangerous.

Plastic is the surface. In describing her research interests, Anya herself mentions a “finish fetish.” Like a video or mobile phone screen, the immaculate glossy surfaces reflect us back into itself. In a warped pastiche of another ancient mimetic function of painting the surface-as-screen becomes an “idea less of flow than of intensities”, an arena of “transmission rather than embodiment”. Paradoxically, this suggestion of dematerialisation is achieved through the very thing a screen can’t reproduce – the transmission site is a body of plastic. The object of transmission – the work – is resolutely a material thing.

Photograph by Anya Pesce

Photograph by Anya Pesce

What does this mean for contemporary painting? Is it, perhaps that the certainties of abstract monochrome paintings as the clean, minimal sign for painting has slipped, perhaps messily, into a world of commodification, of lipstick, whale stomach contents and selfie poses.

 – Lisa Sharp

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and independent curator. She
currently lives and works in Sydney.  After a career as a lawyer, Lisa recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours – painting). Lisa is travelling to Paris at the end of this month to exhibit her paintings at the Factory 49 Paris Pop Up Gallery. The exhibition “unmake / make / dénouer / nouer” will be open at 122 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris from 30 March – 23 April 2016. Lisa also likes to write about art and artists, and curate exhibitions. Her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

For more information on Factory 49 visit http://factory49.blogspot.com.au/

without / within – a self portrait of the world: Lisa Sharp reviews “Alone Together: In the company of strangers” by Jo Meisner

Alone and Together by Jo Meisner (was onsite at 1 Margaret Street, Sydney 8-9 March)

On a busy city corner at One Margaret Street Sydney art in a glass-walled corporate foyer reflects, barely contains and displays the herd of people moving through the city. In a visually subtle, site-specific spectacle, the reality of the moving crowd without is echoed by the evocative imagery within, in a photographic installation created by artist Jo Meisner. Placed within and among the actual surge of human movement, the glass wall comes to life. Reflected legs merge with the strides and steps of people coming and going. It is at once integrated and illusory. The work melds, almost but not quite fusing with the world it depicts. And it is those parts that don’t quite fit which make it such an intriguing, uncanny experience.

alone together 1

The relentless, restless movement of people outside the building is repeated inside the building by the work, Alone Together: In the company of strangers. Consisting of a strip of photographically printed transparencies, located on a waist-height horizon line, the imagery is of truncated bodies. Legs stride, feet hit the pavement and colour is bleached away in a frozen moment.

Read literally as an urban street scene it conveys (but cropped to a lower register only) the repetition, monotony and movement of commuting much in the vein of that iconic John Brack painting, Collins Street, 5pm.[i] Yet on closer inspection the images have been photographed in situ – according to Jo, just days before, so that at any moment the owner of the depicted legs could walk into and through the image in a strange conflation of time, object and subject. This brings the work to immediate, vivacious life. Wrapped on the inside of these public-facing windows then, is an inward-looking idea; that of the self within the crowd. The static, black and white imagery stands as metaphor for an idea that Jo has been exploring for some time now – the alienation of the individual and particularly, its manifestation in our highly digitised, social media and device-aware contemporaneity.

alone together 2

Jo ascribes her initial concept to the childhood matching game of tops and tails, but this is different. While John Brack gave his commuters highly individualised features, these legs and feet are anonymous. They are yours, or mine. Identity comes from the interaction that occurs when any individual walks into the reflection and becomes part of the work – and it is a fleeting, ephemeral moment.

alone together 3

There is an immediacy about the process of making this work, also only made possible with digitisation and rendering in plastic film. What was seen only last week is now enlarged and printed with the ubiquitous media of our age. There it is, multiplied, a rectangular reflective screen within which to see ourselves. One of Jo’s influences is Michelangelo Pistoletto and his mirror paintings. This legacy is apparent, but here it is taken out of the gallery and onto a particular street corner, creating a specific “self portrait of the world”.[ii]

Can we be lonely while in a crowd? The sense of separation is familiar but uncomfortable.  It is all around us – on a train, a bus stop, commuting to work, as a group we move as Jo observes, with “heads looking downwards, not outwards.” Our mutual alienation commodified on a building wall. See it, look and walk through it.

The exhibition was part of in’habit , the Spectrum Now festival and was supported by Dexus property group http://spectrumnow.com.au/events/%C9%AAn%CB%88hab%C9%AAt-presented-by-dexus-property-group/.

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All images courtesy of the artist.

[i] John Brack, Collins St, 5pm, 1955, oil on canvas, 114.8 x 162.8 cms, National Gallery of Victoria

[ii] Michelangelo Pistoletto, www.pistoletto.it

 – Lisa Sharp

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Lisa Sharp is a Malaysian-born Australian artist, writer and independent curator. She
currently lives and works in Sydney.  After a career as a lawyer, Lisa recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours – painting). Lisa is travelling to Paris at the end of this month to exhibit her paintings at the Factory 49 Paris Pop Up Gallery. The exhibition “unmake / make / dénouer / nouer” will be open at 122 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris from 30 March – 23 April 2016. Lisa also likes to write about art and artists, and curate exhibitions. Her blog is at www.lisa-sharp.tumblr.com

Jo Meisner has a website http://jomeisner.com.au/