Drawing hybrids

Diana Klaosen

Julia Dowe, white cranes day and night

Julia Dowe, white cranes day and night

For a show predicated, essentially, on the idea of drawing, Vehicle confounds any preconceived ideas the viewer might bring to it. This vibrant collection of compelling works is as far from the idea of pencil likenesses and conté sketches as it could be, featuring examples of ingenuity and lateral thinking using a wide range of—to this gallery goer—unexpected media. The description “electric drawing”, which was used by several commentators to sum up the show, gives some idea of its impact.

Curator Felix Ratcliff has assembled an impressive group of exhibition participants and has chosen an intriguing curatorial premise: “a range of contemporary drawing-based works…whose conceptual strategies and manipulation of materials constitute and represent dynamic forms of cartographic activity” (catalogue essay).

The Sydney-based trio known as Conductor presented a one-off performance in which they created a large work using real time audio and video-editing devices, electrically-conductive graphite pencils and paper, manipulating a bank of synthesizers and software to represent elements of the aural, the musical and the visual. Both the exciting resulting image and the video of its creation feature in the show.

Julia Dowe’s delicate kinetic drawing, the digital animation entitled white cranes day and night (the cranes are machines, not birds, incidentally) investigates spatial and visual limits utilising a slowly moving gridded formation. On a loop, individual, simplified, linear cranes slowly emerge, line by line, against blue backgrounds symbolic of night and day, only to dissolve or dis-assemble in the same manner. The repetitious use of forms and movement, as the diagram-like outlines of the cranes appear and fade, emphasises the spatial nature of time, creating for the viewer “a mental map of temporal discontinuity” (catalogue notes).

Sculptor Sharyn Woods’ Reinforcement re-interprets and subverts the notion of drawing by using arc-welding burn marks on MDF to create a star-like modernist pattern, based on the unpretentious fence post finial. Other lines and scratches add to the “dimensionality and linearity” (catalogue) of the work, and I found it interesting to appreciate the piece and its shapes taking on board the catalogue references to symbolic associations with fortifications, weaponry such as spears, violence and the military.

Jake Walker’s Untitled, parts 3 & 8 (marker pen on acrylic) are delicately beautiful, flowing, curving, curling ‘landscapes’ in limited palettes in soft tones, dotted in a somewhat pointillist manner and able to be read in a variety of ways. Anne Mestitz “takes a line for a wall”, to use the Paul Klee phrase, turning aluminium cable, paint and car detailing into a 3-dimensional mobile sculptural piece inspired by anonymous verbal exchanges between people. The physicality and beauty of this work, Heresay, are entirely seductive.

Other works also utilise media in inventive ways. Ian Friend’s A Decompensation Episode #2 maps the mental disintegration of a close friend. Using Indian ink, gouache, crayon pigment and casein, this spectral image sits somewhere between the painterly and the drawn. Textile artist Sara Lindsay has utilised gouache on paper to imitate the appearance of the drawn line, such as that made by a coloured pencil. The title, Shima, is Japanese for the word ‘stripe’ as it relates to textiles. The work speaks of the lines traced by a shuttle moving across woven fabric and also functions as “an autonomous directional diagram and motion-map’ (catalogue). Mick O’Shea creates Audio Drawing, a time-based DVD documenting the sights and sounds of his artmaking; movements, textures and the aural traces made by his body and his media as he paints and draws at his “audio drawing table” (catalogue).

Vehicle is multi-layered and intellectually rigorous, with an engrossing and illuminating exhibition catalogue. As a purely visual/aesthetic experience the show functions exceedingly well. CAST gallery is a venue whose aim is to present a varied program of the best in contemporary art; Vehicle is one of the most successful exhibitions I have seen there this year.

Vehicle: Drawing, Maps, Models and Prototypes, curator Felix Ratcliff; artists: Conductor (Michael Robinson, Cy Norman & Pia Van Gelder), Julia Dowe, Ian Friend, Ralf Hanrieder, Karin Lettau, Sara Lindsay, Anne Mestitz, Mick O’Shea, Jake Walker, Sharyn Woods, CAST Gallery, North Hobart, July 2 -31

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 48

© Diana Klaosen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2005
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