Archive for March 25th, 2018

Exhibitions: Steel for now; Recalibrate; Arcadia

Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith Steel for now
This exhibition by sculptors Caroline Duffy and Ellenore Griffith is in its final week at Gallery Lane Cove. I’ve been fortunate to spend some quiet time with the exhibition, plus hear the artists speak about their work and their creative paths. The works felt familiar and exciting, inspirational… aspirational.

The two artists met at a National Art School class in welded sculpture around 11 years ago – basically the same class I took last year (22-Jan-2017). They have since worked independently and collaboratively. In the talks they went into quite a bit of detail about the methods and challenges of welding, with some really helpful discussion and generous tips about managing safety concerns. Their assessment was the same as mine – welding, grinding etc are serious things with clear dangers, not something you can do casually in a domestic environment. However they had a few suggestions about how to create other possibilities, find other environments, which gives me a bit more optimism for the future.

Steel for now installation view
Caroline Duffy


As well as her work in steel Caroline Duffy showed a number of collage works. I had an immediate and very strong positive response. At a deep level these works resonated with me. It’s a response to material and form, which seems to be the way in which Duffy herself views her work. In her talk she explained that the material leads. She adds material – “stuff” – then takes away stuff. Process, the sheer fun of the work, is the thing and it’s never outsourced.

Caroline Duffy
KYLIX

Duffy’s work is named with meaningless groupings of letters. There is no narrative in her work. In fact if by chance something literal is suggested, say a bird, then she will remove or change that area.

Germination II


I felt like a fellow traveler, maybe a younger sibling. More resonance or suggestion than specific. For example the general form, the repeated elements, the material of KYLIX had me thinking of Germination II (30-Jun-2017). Mine looks fussy by comparison, but that textile sensibility, the threadlike basketry elements, is important to me and something I feel I should focus on.

Ellenore Griffith
Paper Plane

Ellenore Griffith discussed the experimental approach she takes with her work, putting elements together then taking days or weeks looking at them, adjusting in minor or major ways, until she is satisfied and proceeds to welding.

Like Duffy, Griffith is not narrative in her work. She states “My hope is that these sculptures can be appreciated on an aesthetic and imaginative level rather than allowing environmental or social issues to take over the narrative.” However she is happy to accept titles suggested by others, accepting to some level the seeking for meaning or known points of reference that we often bring when looking at an artwork.

Ellenore Griffith
Sheer Red

I find it refreshing, perhaps liberating, to hear such strong statements treating material, form, aesthetic response as the purpose and reason for art. So many people choose to use their art as a means of bringing attention to social, environmental or other issues that concern them. I don’t in any way reject or question that meaning and purpose. If an artist has strongly held beliefs or wants to bring attention to a cause then using their art to publicise and express that can be an important contribution to social discourse. It’s more that I personally don’t have such drivers, and it feels good, validating, to be reminded that that is one option among many, none more nor less legitimate than others.

Tracy Stirzaker Recalibrate
Tracy Stirzaker’s exhibition Recalibrate is also in its last week at Gallery Lane Cove.

Stirzaker uses textile collage, embroidery, installation and soft sculpture in this exhibition, which stems from a recent 3-month artist residency.

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The themes of the work revolve around mental health, the emotional body, and the concept of being overwhelmed in the everyday. I thought the works were very effective in expressing these ideas.

One more technical aspect I particularly appreciated was the coherence of the works. A limited palette of fabrics was used, basically a blue and white kitchen towel material and a number of black and white fabrics. Forms and images were repeated – the straight jacket in different materials; a series of silhouettes in collage and stitch; the straight jacket presented as an installation, in a series of photographs taken in the streets nearby, in a video of a silhouetted, straight-jacketed body struggling for freedom. The repetition made for a more compelling exhibition, but also was expressive of the themes being explored.

Ewa Pachucka Arcadia: landscape and bodies
This installation can currently be seen at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Ewa Pachucka

Ewa Pachucka

It is fascinating on a number of levels to see this multi-part installation Arcadia: landscape and bodies (1972-77). It was created within the context of 1970s fibre art, and first exhibited at the Gallery in 1978.

There are references to classical art (and world) history, notions of collectivism, feminism and environmentalism. Most importantly there is the elevation of textile traditions and craft into the privileged realm of fine art.

What’s had me thinking is a recent incident in a group installation, part of a larger exhibition. It’s not one I’ve written about, and I won’t go into detail because quite possibly the story has been distorted in the telling (something that could be interesting in its own right). In any case, the story I’ve heard is that the group, all women, prepared a number of elements as part of the installation. Included was a large piece that deliberately evoked the look of a patchwork quilt. That element was rejected by the curator of the exhibition as “too crafty”. It was displayed, folded up, partially covered by other material, in a way to minimize its presence.

Was the curator simply exercising her (note gender) role, effectively excluding work she didn’t see as appropriate in some quality? Given it was a very conscious, deliberate evocation of the domestic by the artists, does it show a lack of understanding by the curator? Do we need to fight yet again for the place of the domestic, the place of textile traditions and craft, in the realm of art? Does it make a difference that it wasn’t actually a textile in traditional terms?


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