Research: Unbalanced, Precarious

3-Jan-2019 presented my brief-to-self exploring the pivot / balance point / precipice / knife edge / danger / unbalance idea. I wanted to actively explore what “unbalance” (etc) can look like, and showed the first nine days of experimentation.

In tandem with this I’ve done some more concentrated research:
* a couple of hours at AGNSW, searching for relevant examples;
* some internet searching;
* a review of this blog to find work that has caught my eye in the past.

Art Gallery of NSW
At first it seemed surprisingly difficult to find examples that fit the investigation. But of course most artists want to keep your eyes on the work. Even if dynamic, with lots of movements, diagonals, etc, paintings generally resolve with some form of balance.

Matthew Smith
Jugs against vermillion background

I’ve seen this before. For example Matthew Smith’s work Jugs against vermillion background. 31-Jan-2014 I wrote “The most surprising thing in viewing this picture is the balance. There is so much information and action on the right, and on the left… I’m not sure how well it shows in the photograph, but that red on the right is so intense, so solid, while the red on the right hand side is just a bit darker, not quite so saturated – and it works.” All the action is on the right, there’s even half a body sliding diagonally down off the frame, but my eye doesn’t go with it. The space and the intense colour on the left provides balance.

Charles Meere
Atalanta’s eclipse

In the painting by Meere above, the two racing figures are unbalanced. The painting as a whole is dead steady.

Robert Klippel
No 102 Metal construction (1961)

Robert Klippel
Left: No 48 Entities suspended from a detector (1948)
Right: No 35 Madame Sophie Sesostoris (1947-48)

Last post I showed some small sculptures by Robert Klippel. Those were from 1995. A much larger metal construction made in 1961 is a complex and fascinating form, with lots of unexpected projections and unlikely balance in the detail, but overall staying steady and firmly in place.

The earlier suspended entities has a very sturdy upright, well able to support the small elements hanging from it.

William Kentridge
Bird catching (2006)

This print by Willian Kentridge, aquatint and drypoint on paper, is more relevant. The figure is definitely falling, one foot not even visible, the other foot outside the internal frame, and although it seems likely the body will fall within the space of the print it doesn’t look like anything can stop the tumble.

I took a couple more photos of different things, but on review they’re not convincing.

Internet search
This was more successful, especially when I changed the significant search term from “unbalanced” to “precarious”. Results have been collected on a new pinterest board –

Blog review
A scan through photos previously shown on this blog produced some more examples.

MoMA at NGV 15-Sep-2018

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 (cast 1931)

Seeing the work itself, appreciating the scale, was important. This work has movement, but not the sense of potential loss of control. It is striding confidently.

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Non-Objective Painting

I found movement and depth in Rodchenko’s work, but I wouldn’t say it’s in imminent danger.

National Gallery of Victoria

François-Raoul Larche
Loïe Fuller, the dancer
c. 1900

This lamp base has movement, with the additional sense that it wouldn’t be possible to hold the pose for any length of time. In a beautiful and elegant way, it is unbalanced. And I note here a resistance in myself – elegance, the controlled movement, lessens the sense of the precarious.

13 Rooms exhibition – 13-Apr-2013

Coexisting Clark and Beaumont

Nicole Beaumont and Sarah Clark occupied a plinth together – eight hours a day for the eleven days of the exhibition. A sequence of movement for one to stand up seemed particularly perilous.

In Just a Blink of an Eye
Xu Zhen

Xu Zhen’s work is a suspended moment. Entirely beyond precarious, yet motionless.

Art History annotation 23-May-2014

The Townley Discobolus
One of several Roman copies made of a lost bronze original made in the 5th century BC by the sculptor Myron.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The moment before an explosive release of energy, however I found the work strangely static.

Paul Landowski
David combattant
bronze, cire perdu (lost wax)

I showed for comparison a David actually in action here in Sydney. The figure is focused, committed. Action regardless of consequences.

Matt Bromhead Longline exhibition at pompom 22-Jul-2018

Matt Bromhead

Seeing Matt’s work and taking a workshop with him (10-Jul-2018) are a major drivers of this exploration project.

ARTEXPRESS 2018 exhibition 18-Feb-2018

How Irrigating
Hannah Raeside

There are better photos on the AGNSW website – Not quite what I’m looking for, but some very interesting elements – both for balance, and for use of (I’m guessing) concrete.

Sculpture at Scenic World 2016 exhibition 1-May-2016

Elyssa Sykes-Smith

This suspended work by Elyssa Sykes-Smith has bodies reaching, stretching, impossibly.

Her work in Sculpture by the Sea 2013 (3-Nov-2013) shows what appear at first glance more static figures. Quickly the strain of the figures, the weight of stone, give a sense of impending doom.

a shared weight
Elyssa Sykes-Smith

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 6-Nov-2016

Johannes Pannekoek
Change ahead

Is this unbalanced or precarious? I suppose the answer is “yes”, but it is so massive it seems stable. There’s also that sense of elegance in the movement, a confidence that seems to dilute what I’m seeking.

Tom Bass Annual Studio Exhibition 2-Oct-2016

Margo Hoekstra

Centered, but precarious.

Lisa Reidy

This doesn’t really fit my current brief, yet feels somehow relevant. An echo of Louise Bourgeois’s Personages? Arms outstretched, striving for balance?

20th Biennale of Sydney 3-Apr-2016

Nina Beier
Installation view

Another “maybe” example. Clearly there is something clever done to suspend the mugs, but the end impression isn’t one of danger or movement.

Art History research – Gillian Lowndes 26-Feb-2016

Gillian Lowndes
Cup on Base
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Another seminal work for me. So exciting.

The mug is broken. There has already been a collapse, and another is moments away.

MMT research at AGNSW 30-Jan-2016

Fiona Hall Slash and Burn

Definitely dangerous. Menacing.

Art History assignment 9-Dec-2013

Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot
Edgar Degas
bronze, cire perdu (lost wax) 1900-1910 cast 1919-1921

Macquarie University Sculpture Garden 26-Jun-2016

Errol B Davis

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