Archive for April 28th, 2018

Biennale of Sydney – MCA

A partial wander through the galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Ciara Phillip

Ciara Phillips

In Ciara Phillip’s printing studio I felt flat and un-involved. Signage informed me that the artist has invited local community groups, is exploring the nature of collaboration, wants to connect with people and develop ideas together. Apparently as part of the audience I was meant to see work in production, interrupting the gallery convention of viewing a completed work of art. I saw: a print studio and associated paraphernalia; a gallery staff member making notes on a clip board – when I approached her to ask about the artist working in the studio she referred me to the information desk; later, a different gallery staff member striding across the space to tell someone not to touch the drying racks. I guess it’s more interesting as an idea or as a participant or as a audience to work actually in production.

Simryn Gill

Simryn Gill
Untitled (Interior) II


Five bronze sculptures, each contained on a plinth, fabulously delicate and complex. They were cast from fissures in dry dams and creeks during a long, severe drought in Australia. The void made visible. Lace-like, beauty from the hard and harsh. The more you look the more you see.

Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept

Since then I’ve been thinking of Lucio Fontana and the pierced canvas, making apparent the threshold between materiality and immateriality (12-Jun-2016, and an image 21-Dec-2017).

John Olsen
Cooper’s Creek in flood

Of John Olsen, preoccupied with the littoral and the void (6-Apr-2017).

Resin samples

Of my cast resin samples from Mixed Media for Textiles, my glorious failures (14-Sep-2015). Thoughts are bubbling furiously.

Simryn Gill
Carbon Copy (detail)

Simryn Gill
Carbon Copy

Also by Simryn Gill is Carbon Copy. Frame after frame of typed text, varied, text that looks textural, textile-like. A strange mixture of precision, staggered repetition to form twill-like diagonals, and apparent carelessness, poorly typed, spelling and positional “errors”. Then you decipher some of the text and there’s a thudding, booming in your head, hateful words repeated ad nauseum until they almost lose impact and meaning, become part of the fabric of modern discourse.

Yvonne Koolmatrie

Yvonne Koolmatrie
Burial Baskets

Another series of works given additional presence and impact by repetition, variation, and thoughtful display. An expression of tradition, culture, community, country, the varying seasons. One was made ten years ago, the others commissioned for the Biennale. Tradition sustained and sustaining.

One of the things I value about basketry, enjoy being part of, is the sense of doing something fundamental to humanity, that connects people of widely separated times and places and cultures. Coiling, twining, looping… techniques subtly or strongly varied, made with differing or similar materials, with differing purposes and meaning, but creating connections.

Haegue Yang
That ubiquity is explored further in sculptures installed in a gallery of works by Haegue Yang in a series titled The Intermediate.

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Various types of ropes and twines, many synthetic but also natural materials, are combined with a range of objects using predominately basketry techniques in forms that raise ideas of effigies, folk rituals and menacing half-seen monsters.


Shown with a number of video works, bright lights moving in darkness, and installations of reflective surfaces and black venetian blinds, there is an unsettling beauty and sense of danger. The blinds in particular – so domestic, suburban, but hiding prying eyes and giving glimpses of private interiors…

Svay Sareth
There are quite a few video works in the exhibition – not usually a favoured medium for me. You generally walk in part way through, they make considerable time demands on the audience, it’s hard to use the technique of a quick reconnoiter followed by deeper consideration of the works that particularly attract one, and often I find them quite a passive experience.

Prendre les Mesures is documentary footage of a durational performance. Svay Sareth used a large sack needle to measure the length of the causeway at the entrance to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. 7315 needle lengths, eight hours’ duration.

The film is taken from different viewpoints, close and from a distance. Often the artist seemed in danger of being trampled by the weight of tourists visiting the site. It was hard to tell what he was doing.

The MCA website text includes “While Angkor Wat has been a spiritual location of great significance, Svay calls attention to the expropriation of the temple by varying powers over time, from the colonial-era establishment of an archaeological park, to more recent concessions of ticket sales to private companies, and the ever-present masses of tourists” (https://www.biennaleofsydney.art/artists/svay-sareth/). I didn’t understand that while viewing it, but it was absorbing to watch the focus and attention of the man in all that bustle, what appeared a quiet and gentle determination to continue his chosen task regardless of time, aching knees, the reactions of the other visitors to his presence and to the presence of the film cameras.

A sack needle was displayed on a black cushion on a plinth nearby. It’s fascinating the power of that presentation. Something so ordinary and utilitarian transformed.


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