Sunday, 7 January 2018

The horse trotted another couple of meters, then it stopped (2018) Katharina Grosse

The Horse trotted another couple of meters, then it stopped (2018) 

Katharina Grosse

Cariageworks, Sydney. 6 Jan to 8 April 2018.

from the outside
First of all, what is that title all about? Many of Grosse’s titles are elusive and enigmatic, and that is deliberate. She is fond of using stage directions, pieces of poetry or snippets of writings as titles. So think about the absurdity of the title in juxtaposition with the artwork, but don’t try to find the horse.
I went to the artists’s talk on Sat 6th Jan, and it is always quite insightful to hear an artist speak about her own work. Her intention and how she sees the works, how she imagines the work to be seen by others can be quite different to how the rest of us see her work.

In this case her installation of meters (8250 m2) of (initially) white fabric, spray painted in layers of bright colours is immersive (we can all agree on that). The fabric had been carefully assembled in voluminous soft folds on the floor of the Carriageworks hall, then huge ‘pinches’ of fabric have been hauled up to the roof space and suspended there. The result is a ‘room’ of softly draped walls, no roof, and a floor of folds, tucks and pleats. Visitors enter through gaps in the fabric, and walk on the fabric of the installation. (some of us walked barefoot, which was sort of nice – to really feel the creases and undulations of the artwork). Once the whole structure was complete in space, the spray painting began.
Grosse spoke with the curator of the exhibition and Director of Carriageworks. At one point, the curator spent quite a bit of time talking about how she saw the work – don’t know that that was entirely necessary – we were there to hear from the artist.
Grosse commented on the influence of Edvard Munch (liberation of the canvas from the frame) and Pina Bausch (dynamism in art). For Grosse, painting is an architectural practice. This particular work had many developmental stages, sewing, engineering etc. At each stage there were many precise questions raised – usually had nothing to do with the art of the work, but the logistics. She also believes that there is an energy within an artwork when that work is ‘not quite right’ when it has an aspect of the paranormal. The energy with this artwork comes from the suspension of these big pinches of fabric. There are swathes of fabric creating beautiful curved lines as the fabric stretches from 1 pylon to another.

a big 'pinch'
On entry to the artwork, one’s attention is elevated to see how far up the artwork stretches. But then with the first step, one must look down to negotiate the trip hazards of the tucked and piled up fabric. The spray paint was applied after the fabric was arranged in folds on the ground. As a result, the fabric which is ‘hidden’ has stayed white. As everyone walks on the surface, some scuffing and displacement occurs, and the white areas are revealed. How will this effect play out over time? More scuffing and lifting/moving of the fabric will possibly continue to happen for a time – a few days, a week or so? But I wonder whether there will become a time when the compression effect of many visitors will pack the fabric down, and the pattern of colour and white will become more stable.

on the floor
It is very interesting to see textile being used within a painterly installation. The textile here is still very much a canvas, not a piece of fabric as it may be seen in textile art. Is it purely because the artist is known for her painting first and foremost, rather than for any sort of textile manipulation and/or textile sensitivity? Is it because paint is applied to the textile? Is it because of the ‘unfussiness’ of the draping? Is it because the textile canvas is meant to be secondary to the painting element? It is taking the canvas off the frame, it is still being treated as a canvas – it is not being treated as a textile.

There is a video of the installation available here.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Souls on board, (2017) by Susan Milne

Souls on Board (2017) Susan Milne

This artwork is spotlighted in a dark space (black painted walls and ceiling) at the front of the Manly Art Gallery and Museum, as part of the North Head Project, 8 December 2017 – 18 February 2018. 
The curator is Katherine Roberts.

I was drawn first to the darkened room, and the glow of light on - what appeared at first glance to be - drapes of many muslin strips. Subtle crosses could be seen on some of the strips. The whole installation was hung from the ceiling.

First there is the pointed oval piece of Perspex (3.5m x approx. .7m) reminiscent of the shape of a ship. This is hanging on a flat plane horizontally, and is etched (?) with gently wiggly lines/shapes. It is hanging above my head, and so looking up at it, with the light coming from above gives me the feeling of looking up at the surface of the water from underneath. It is like a watery ships deck. Strips of Perspex rod and suspended from the ‘deck’, and then narrow strips of muslin/gauze are hung from these strips. These strips are packed quite densely together to give the impression of a ‘solid’ space – the hold of a ship. I have a vivid picture of the souls packed into the holds of ships in the late 18th Century, and through the 19th Century as ships full of convicts and/or free settlers/immigrants plied the oceans towards Port Jackson from Britain.

The arrangement of muslin strips (themselves reminiscent of cloth bandages) to from the underwater outline and shape of the hull of a ship is brilliant. It is a rudimentary outline however. To be true to the bulk of the hull, there could have been more shaping of the lower line – from side to side and from front to back. I wonder whether it was deliberate to NOT follow that line exactly.

The attachment of ‘self-fabric’ crosses to the muslin strips was minimal and very subtle – perhaps ‘vleisofix’ was used. There was no visible stitching in the attachment.

There was also no finishing of edges of the strips. In most cases the edges were raw scissor cuts, indicating to me that they have been cut from a larger piece of meterage fabric, rather than the use of actual bandages. Sometimes the selvedge edge is used. I am not sure that I like this detail. It’s a bit like the artist was not sensitive to the differences of selvedge vs non-selvedge. I would have preferred to have seen those selvedges cut off, to make the edges treatment consistent throughout the whole piece.

The whole room was enveloped in a soundscape of water lapping against the hull of a ship. The sounds are gentle, reminiscent of a ship at rest, anchored in a protected cove. The use of a soundscape reminded me of the soundscape used in the performance of the play ‘Fallen’ at the Seymour Centre, that I saw early in 2017. In that case the sounds were primarily of the creaking of the boards of the hull of the ship when it was under sail. Those sounds were active, intense and confronting. These sounds are light and gentle, the sounds of the souls floating off.

I went outside to read the artist’s statement, which I have reproduced here. It has the same beauty as the artwork. Towards the end ‘an unrecorded death nowhere’ is particularly evocative.

Souls on board suspends 572 souls representing the recorded deaths at the Quarantine Station, Manly.
As part of the disembarkation method for a yellow flagged ship moored in the waters off the station, the travellers were protected and isolated, incubated and infected, sealed and preserved. Each soul was in limbo, in a hospital where fumigation, steam and lime were the salving agents.
Dressing these souls in gauze, the artwork unrolls memories, swathing the skin shifting in the air. They are identical in suffering and yet each contains unique stories unwrapped in varying life lines.
Gauze, a breezy gleam, is laden with the sterilisation process, with a translucent porosity and as an embalming unguent. Its drape outlines the body and marks the outbreak of pestilence on the skin.
The vessel is the fragile drift across oceans, enfolding a new community and providing the means of a new beginning and the seeds of its contamination.
This artwork responds to the ardour of the journey with an enforced segregation once arrived and for many, an unrecorded death nowhere. Their body-vessels were piled, studied and lime washed.
Many of the souls on board were never noted because they had never arrived.

Susan Milne.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Sunday, 23 October 2016

look around the back

I love these back views of my stitched drawings
probably like this first one the best

week 31

week 32

week 33