Time & Vision - 4
By Paul Bayley
It is outside my curatorial remit to speculate that there is a new-found confidence amongst the new generation of Australian artists. In dialogue with these artists I was struck by the fact that whilst there was gratitude for the support of the Australia Council there was little or no discussion of a national identity, nor was it manifest in the work.
So what of those artists that I did select? I suppose one of the most obvious factors was the sophisticated and often counter-intuitive use of materials and intentionality. Here we have photographers working sculpturally, painters using installation and moving image as painting. These hybrid practices are conducted simultaneously with a formal seriousness and a lightness of touch. Renee So works with often maligned materials such as ceramics or knitted wool to produce works laden with historical reference points and a poised elegant ambiguity. Lyndall Phelps uses the historical or the anecdotal as a conceptual starting point and constructs her own narrative, in this case the exhibition venue’s own history and industrial past. this is art as myth creation. Helen Pynor is someone else whose research is extensive, perhaps a consequence of her academic past as a scientist. Certainly her recent work has fused a poetic and biological understanding of water in a series of works using the River Thames as both giver and taker of life.
Sally Smart has created a body of work which has developed from a long-term interest in representations of the tree, with reference to contemporary and historical models: the family tree, the tree house, tree of life and the tree of knowledge have been potent imaginative sources for smart. her thinking has been organised around performance and choreographic drawing to image movement, making connections with the processes.
Materials are deconstructed and reconstructed, collaged, strained and sewn into monumental frieze-like wall works. Tom Polo engages directly with the audience through his painted signage: this is a mutable performative practice. Whilst Polo’s installations work to confront the audience’s expectations, Michelle Ussher’s work is sensory and almost symbolist in its intensity. Paintings and recent ceramics play with illusion and reflection, memory and loss.