MINING PYRITE is a NEW exhibition to be displayed for FREE at Newington Armory Gallery at Sydney Olympic Park, from 10 am-4 pm every weekend from Saturday 17 June – Sunday 20 August 2017 (inclusive).
Curated by Cassandra Hard-Lawrie and Nick Vickers, MINING PYRITE will feature the works of 20 international and local contemporary artists, each of whom have drawn inspiration from Sydney Olympic Park and used its facilities to create their artworks. The diverse exhibition spans a broad range of expressive media forms including installation, sculpture, photography, multimedia, video, painting and more.
Gaining its title from the mineral ‘pyrite’, or ‘Fools Gold’, this exhibition explores the parallel narrative of failure and success that can be drawn from any ‘artist’s’ story.
Curator Nick Vickers draws comparison between the development of Sydney Olympic Park and that of the artist’s journey-“The constant testing and exploration of the boundaries of what does and doesn’t work is the stock and trade of creativity,” explained Vickers.
During the past 12 years, Sydney Olympic Park Authority has supported more than 170 artists’ journeys of exploration by providing its artists-in-residence program. The program allows artists to take inspiration on-site of the historic, heritage-listed Newington Armory precinct, via its unique studio spaces available for rent to artists.
MINING PYRITE features the works of artists who have occupied the studios at Newington Armory and whose works exemplify a journey of exploration and experimentation. The exhibition sheds light on the activities of the studios at Newington Armory, while celebrating the success of the Park’s artists-in-residence program and the history of Sydney Olympic Park as a whole.
The area that is Sydney Olympic Park today has experienced many instances of failure and success. From the closure of its State Abattoir in 1988 and the Brickworks closure thereafter, the area was then considered economically unviable. The Park hosted numerous unsuccessful coal mining attempts and was once a wasteland. Today however, Sydney Olympic Park is recognised as an internationally admired example of sustainable urban renewal and development. The Park is home to a growing residential area with a thriving corporate business district and a spectacular entertainment precinct.
Featured artist Wade Marynowsky specialises in immersive, interactive and experimental art forms. The exhibition will include his work Black Casino, which involves five flying V guitars mounted atop a rotating spin wheel, his boundary-pushing style acts as a fitting parallel to Sydney Olympic Park’s own progressive journey.
“The arts community of Western Sydney is second to none and this exhibition at the Armory Gallery provides a great opportunity to see a sample of some of the region’s best artistic works,” said Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres. “I recommend people get along to Sydney Olympic Park’s Armory Gallery and enjoy exploring this unique arts space”.
Mining Pyrite features the artworks of: Wade Marynowsky, Mark Booth, Chris Bowman, Mark Brown, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, Louisa Dawson, Gary Deirmendjian, Judith Duquemin, Allan Giddy, John Gillies, Locust Jones, Akira Kamada, Michael Keighery, Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Meredith Peach, Jane Theau, Rachel Walls, Ken and Julia Yonetani.
With nearby FREE car parking at Blaxland Riverside Park, the Armory Gallery is located at Building 18 at Newington Armory, accessible via Jamieson St at Sydney Olympic Park.
From Centre, an exhibition of reductive abstract works, curated by Saturation Point and Slate Projects was on view at The Loud & Western Building, from 11 April to 26 April 2015 showing the following artistsWilliam Angus-Hughes, Rana Begum, Martin Church, Nathan Cohen, Rhys Coren, Natalie Dower, Judith Duquemin, Julia Farrer, Ben Gooding, Lothar Götz, Hanz Hancock, Tess Jaray, Silvia Lerin, Peter Lowe, Patrick Morrissey, Laurence Noga, Charley Peters, Richard Plank, Giulia Ricci, Carol Robertson, Robin Seir, Steve Sproates and Trevor Sutton.
Installation shot, from left to right works by Laurence Noga, Patrick Morrissey and Martin Church. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects.
It’s an impressive line up, spanning several generations of artists, born in every decade from the 1930s to the 1980s, and making a convincing case for the growing relevance of abstract art in the UK.
Installation shot, works from left to right by Natalie Dower, Martin Church, Julia Farrer, Rhys Coren, Laurence Noga. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
Thinking about abstraction’s continued relevance may require me to at least mention Zombie Formalism, (“Formalism because this art involves a straightforward, reductive, essentialist method of making a painting and Zombie because it brings back to life the discarded aesthetics of Clement Greenberg”), if only to suggest that the term, coined by artist -critic Walter Robinson, quoted in brackets above, seems to refer more to the market than to the art and may appear more pertinent in the USA than in the UK where alternative modernisms have sometimes held more sway than the version associated with Greenberg and Fried. It is Constructivism I have in mind, its UK variant Constructionism and the Systems Group, which for the artists atFrom Centre are more central than Abstract Expressionism etc.
The reductive (but not necessarily essentialist or straightforward) works on view at From Centre seem to me to be a genuine attempt at continued participation in a living, though contested, tradition.
Installation shot, works from left to right by Julia Farrer, Robin Seir, and Tess Jaray. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
In Dower’s 2013 Painting Polymorph, a subtle pink rectangle is halved down the middle, from which the central point of a pale yellow circle is found, and within that circle a white rectangle beneath an irregular black triangle are positioned. Or maybe there is no “above” or “beneath”, a rectangle within a circle is divided into three different shaped triangles, two white and one black. Alternatively, we simply have a rectangle divided into nine other shapes. The figures and their relationships are not random but calculated mathematically, the parts being strictly determined by the whole, to my mind the most elegant definition of a system. The painting has subtlety, serenity, beauty and a little excitement too, with its alternating views and the slight after-imaging taking place.
Natalie Dower, Polymorph, 2013, oil on canvas, 61 x 86.5 cm. Image by courtesy of the artist.
Other artists here who employ mathematical or numerical systems include Peter Lowe, a former member of the 1970s Systems Group founded by Malcolm Hughes and Jeffrey Steele. He defines systems in his work as “a way of communicating an intelligible idea in terms of shapes colours and forms, or an organisation principle that I predetermine and allow to run to see what the outcomes will be…” In his painting here, Triangles within a Dodecagon, he takes the regular twelve sided shape as its starting place and bases an equilateral triangle between two of the vertices, or along one of the sides. A second triangle is found by taking the base across three vertices, a third across four and a fourth across five. The fourth triangle being the last one that can be produced by following this process, is exactly central, each of its sides spanning four sides of the dodecagon. In the painting here the resultant figures are positioned on a square canvas, losing the surrounding dodecagon altogether. The colours, black, white and red create four planes: a white ‘background’, in front of which is a plane including the largest and smallest triangles in black, in front of which is the red triangle, in front of which is the white triangle. Of course they shift creating varying perceptual gestalts.
Installation shot, from left to right, works by Peter Lowe, Rana Begum and Nathan Cohen. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
There are shifting gestalts in Rana Begum’s painted relief, No. 317, the actual three-dimensionality of the piece, combined with the movement of the viewer results in multiple variations of form, whereas in Charley Peters’ fascinating painting Plexus we are presented with the illusion of flatness within an illusory three dimensional space.
In Giulia Ricci’s Order Disruption Painting there’s something strange going on spatially, the patterned repetition of a triangular motif creating something akin to a systemic field which breaks down in places as the pattern is interrupted, resulting in the appearance of wormholes or spatial anomalies that can also be interpreted as twisting forms caught in the net of the surface whilst at the same time forming that surface. For me, her work explicitly links system to visual pattern.
Giulia Ricci, Order/Disruption Painting no.2, 2012, Laser engraved laminated board and acrylic paint, hand painted, 61 x 101 x1.8cm, Edition of 3. Image by courtesy of the artist
All the artists in this show, perhaps to varying degrees, share an interest in system and/or series. The two tend to go together when a numerical system is being explored. However Julia Farrer’s Knot in Time, seems more to be the product of an entirely empirical enquiry. In both approaches I think there is a search going on, not for the one definitive statement but rather for knowledge. The traditional notion of the masterpiece is challenged, just as it seems totally out of step with our post-digital experience. With Farrer perhaps we have series but not necessarily system, with Laurence Noga I think we have both, but the system is more operational than mathematical.
Yet, each work in this exhibition does command attention as its own thing, perhaps the title of Carol Robertson’s painting Aura is suggestive of this. Whilst in the work different coloured bands surrounding a circle might be likened to an aura, I wonder if that famous Walter Benjamin opposition between mechanical reproduction and the aura of the single artwork is also being referenced. Paradoxically, the serial methodology both challenges and upholds the singularity of each individual piece: singular within series, one but not all.
There may exist differences in emphasis between the generations represented in this exhibition. Perhaps the older artists show more interest in structure in comparison to the younger ones who may appear as interested in the breakdown of order as in its establishment. Contrasting, say, the Trevor Sutton painting Christow with Giulia Ricci’s Order Disruption Painting, could reinforce this view, as might opposing the serene geometry of the Natalie Dower to the visual excitation of Patrick Morrissey’s work, or the stability of Sutton with the kinetic, off- balance effect of Morrissey (see image below), and I know I am going too far in contrasting the contained circularity of Farrer’s Knot in Time or Robertson’s Aura with the eccentricity of Martin Church’sDefinitions (Study No. 3), because mostly what I am finding here is continuity
Installation shot, from left to right works by Trevor Sutton and Patrick Morrissey. Image by courtesy of Slate Projects
Without succumbing to the much too linear (non-systemic) notion of progress, I do want to suggest that these generationally diverse artists, in their shared commitment to an economy of means and a formal language, rooted in the tradition of constructivism and systems art, continue to develop this rich field of artistic activity.
(There is an illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition, with excellent essays by Nathan Cohen and Laura Davidson and an introduction by Alex Meurice.)
Art is an idea, not ‘high-brow craft for a cottage industry’s specialised market’. So Joseph Kosuth simultaneously disdained craft as ‘dumb’ and doomed to commodity status, and claimed for art a higher ground, that of the transcendent, immaterial mind versus the immanent, material body. Art is about ‘what is being said rather than the form of the language’, that is, it is an analytical proposition. Art depends on its artistic context and its nomination as art by the artist, its status or raison d’être wholly abstracted from any material implication, perceptive or referential.
In Art After Philosophy, Kosuth attempted to ‘transfer the notion of authorship from the “auratic” and visible aspects of the work to the mental and invisible processes’ of making.(1) He claimed that ‘the artist is not unlike a scientist for whom there is no distinction between working in the lab and writing a thesis’. Aesthetic evaluations did not simply mislead the artist concerned with conceptual investigations, they were basically extraneous to art. Art needed to free itself from its morphological restrictions and could only do so by ‘becoming aware of its functioning as a kind of logic and thus absorbing the function once relegated to criticism’. As Gabriele Guercio observes, Kosuth’s concern to control the conceptual processes ruling art’s practice had all but edited out the work.(2)
The increasingly hard-line stance of conceptualism guaranteed that the reductionist battlelines would be drawn between formalism and conceptualism in art, although this schism took place in the context of a ‘deep-rooted suspicion of the formal elements of the visual arts by all who profess engagement’ that some critics trace to the dichotomy between truth and beauty that has dogged aesthetics since Plato.(3) Nevertheless, the schism had profound consequences for postmodern art and criticism given that these drew heavily on the conceptual legacy. To be concerned with aesthetics, with form, and with the craft of making, came to be cast as an expression of elitist culture and a badge of conservatism, while conceptualism was deemed to have exclusive access to criticality—and the two were regarded as mutually exclusive.
Amongst the principal heirs of that conceptual moment were the anti-aesthetics of postmodernism, approaches to art-making that sought to sever the connection between artist and work, even between viewer and work. Drawing on the affectless, anti-retinal, anti-skilling impulses of minimalism and conceptualism, the postmodern anti-aesthetic added abjection and popular culture to the mix to become the archetypal ‘critical’ practice of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, its limited range of aesthetic devices—its reliance on shock or shunning—and its narrow interpretative frameworks—in particular institutional critique—increasingly frustrated artists. Art that eschewed technical skill, labour intensive traces of the artist’s hand, and the pleasures of looking as much as of making, gradually lost ground, as artists who nonetheless considered themselves part of the conceptual tradition began to engage with craft, materiality, and aesthetic effects that aimed to delight rather than repel the viewer. One particularly topical local example of this tendency is the artist representing Australia in the 2005 Venice Biennale, Ricky Swallow, but there are many others, including Fiona Hall, Robyn Backen, Savandary Vongpoothorn, Gwyn Hanssen Piggott, Janet Laurence, Robyn Stacey, Helga Groves and Cherine Fahd. These are artists whose work maintains the critical acuity, self-reflexivity and contextual awareness of conceptualism, but draws upon a radically expanded aesthetic language that is not afraid of beauty (despite the fact that some artists are still wary of the term).
A recent exhibition that bore out and augmented this argument was a group show curated by painter Christopher Dean at the Cross Projects in Sydney in November last year. Cleverly titled Conceptual Crochet, the exhibition’s premise was that certain contemporary artists are marrying the traditions of craft with conceptual analysis. The works that Dean brought together—mainly paintings, drawings and prints, with some sculpture—in the small, bright room of the Cross Projects typify that move away from the austere or abject works that characterise much post-conceptual art, towards an art that deploys delight and positive affect without foregoing conceptual engagement. The works betray a way of working that accents the hand, touch, texture, imperfection, authenticity, and singularity—in other words, some of those very aspects that conceptualism had sought to uncouple from the art object. However, this way of working is always tempered by the self-reflexivity of a conceptual practice, an awareness of ‘context’ as Dean puts it in his catalogue essay: the context of one’s role in the art world; the context of the gallery, the market, and critical discourse; the context of those cultural forces that produce one’s own psyche and create the place in which the artwork will be read and interpreted. The artists in Conceptual Crochet share the experience of being educated in conceptually based schools, where they were encouraged to inform their work through analysis of these contexts, but discouraged from engaging with the craft of art, where their work was disdained for ‘looking good’.
Dean singles out weaving as the archetypal craft to argue for the link between craft and conceptualism. Thinking entails the intertwining of distinct strands into a coherent whole, rendering something compelling from a series of fragments through a process of intuition and analysis. Thinking, of course, is not a faculty of the intellect alone, but a continual exchange between the bodily senses and the brain, an exchange in which the hand as sensor plays a crucial role. The hand is also our principal method of transcribing and documenting sensory stimuli, acting as a vital medium for impressions as they are formulated into thoughts. Weaving also reminds us of the heuristic aspects of doing: we learn as our body traces out connections, and our conceptualising is inextricable from the physical act of doing.
Weaving also evokes the labour-intensive, time-consuming nature of the craft process. This duration becomes imbued in the work, in a way that is quite distinct from conceptual gestures that typically attempt to efface the traces of the maker. The artist’s time, often palpably present in beautifully crafted art, can create its own form of engagement, as the viewer is drawn to reciprocate by spending time with the work. The intricacy sometimes associated with a thoroughly crafted object also invites the viewer to spend time with it, often at close quarters, creating the possibility for a more intimate exchange, a more reflective experience. Scale also plays a part: human scale is generally more conducive to the delight of discovery than overwhelming scale that may evoke the fear of the ungraspable. The gallery of the Cross Projects is unmistakably a domestic space, the small, sunny lounge of a terrace house, its fireplace still intact. The works are of necessity relatively small, but rather than diminish them, their size helps attune the viewer to their intricacy.
From the meticulous hand-painted op art patterns of Judith Duquemin, whose carefully negotiated tones bend and bounce off the canvas, to Justin Trendall’s delicate text networks that have been translated from digital to cloth by screenprinting, the works in Conceptual Crochet catch the viewer in mid-step. Fiona MacDonald has literally woven photographs together into new objects, a methodology shared by Kate Mackay using coloured ‘craft’ paper. The effect is wondrous, the works oscillating between two and three dimensions, between reconciling and separating their component images. The paintings of Shaun Weston and Christopher Dean, too, toy with the line between sculpture and painting, their seductively textured and coloured surfaces often built up from found objects with special relations to the body, such as chenille bedspreads. Elizabeth Pulie, whose early paintings were a challenge to conceptualism’s taboo on decorativeness—she wanted to use what was dismissed as frivolous, decadent and anti-intellectual to see where this might lead—represents the relation between movement and thinking that is so integral to craft in her drawings of a yoga position. Jacqueline Rose’s scoured drawing whose very subject is its many erasures and re-inscriptions; Liz Day’s unravelling wall sculpture that spills thread and colour like overflowing thoughts; the modest decorative spray-can stencils by Helen Nicholson; John Aslanidis’ psychedelic paint recordings of sound waves—they all embody the relationship between idea and craft that is evoked in ‘conceptual crochet’.
Rather than compromise their potential for conceptual engagement, it is arguable that the craft, the sumptuous aesthetics, embedded in these works actually lends them a critical sensibility. The aesthetic experience that I call ‘conceptual beauty’ (a term I coined but which clearly finds resonances in Dean’s ‘conceptual crochet’) offers a means of understanding how this critical effect might arise.
The key to ‘conceptual beauty’ is the relationship between intense attention, decentred subjectivity, pleasure, and communication, a relationship that entails an integrative response of concept and soma. Beauty beckons the beholder with its visual rhetoric, including its formal strategies that elicit pleasure, and extracts time from the beholder, striking him/her into a specific form of thought marked by amplitude and generosity. The act of intense attention refreshes the vision of the beholder, enabling a different form of looking, a form that is not subject to the distractions of other stimuli. Rather than remain at the level of sensual pleasure, beauty impels the beholder to thought, to conceptual engagement, in a manner that underlines the integration of mind and body. In this moment of intensely focused attention, the beholder experiences a sense of decentring, of feeling adjacent to him/herself, a sensation that is accompanied by intense pleasure. This unselfing that beauty can evoke is integral to the capacity of beauty to facilitate an experience of community; for an instant the beholder experiences an expansiveness beyond the self that brings with it a sense of something shared and universal and a disposition that views with delight the particularities of the world. It is an attitude that has the potential to forge a radically different ethical relationship to otherness, one that greets the other with wonder rather than fear. Beauty can be a gesture of reconciliation, offer a form of aesthetic amnesty through its generosity. Beauty can incite the desire to save from destruction that which is beautiful, but also, by extension, that which comes increasingly under beauty’s domain as a result of beauty’s honing and refinement of the beholder’s visual and conceptual faculties. Beauty can also act as an aesthetic vernacular, allowing a more direct communication with the beholder that does not rely on an exclusive or arcane language.
An engagement with conceptual beauty in contemporary art, I propose, has the potential for a critical practice that is particularly apposite to current social and political realities. Beauty, rather than necessarily being captive to the market, rather than being reliant purely on sensual appeal to the detriment of conceptual stimulation, rather than being a frivolous or kitsch gesture that precludes political action, is a powerful aesthetic strategy that can nurture a critical disposition and facilitate a regeneration of our engagement with the world. Through its ability to focus our faculties of attention and refine our sensibilities, through its power to decentre us and thus compel us to take a position of difference, through its democratic impulse, which allows for a certain sense of shared or community experience, and through its deployment of the aesthetics of delight, which in the current context fascinate us with their novelty, beauty in contemporary art has the potential for critical engagement.
Conceptual Crochet. Installation view, The Cross Art Projects. Showing left to right works by Elizabeth Pulie, Jacqueline Rose, Kate Mackay. Photograph Brenton McGeachie. Courtesy the Cross Art Pojects, Sydney.
Fiona Macdonald, Authority, 2000. Courtesy the artist and The Cross Art Projects, Sydney.
Judith Duquemin, Holy Hell, Holy Hell 2, Holy Hell 3, 2004. Acrylic gouache on canvas, each 60 x 50cm. Photograph Brenton McGeachie. Courtesy the artist and The Cross Art Projects, Sydney.
left: Justin Trendall, Untitled (black, red, créme), 2004. Screenprint on cotton cloth, black 90 x 62cm, red 42 x 29cm, créme 91 x 102cm. right: John Aslanidis, Sonic Fragment No. 2, 2003; Dislocation Fragment No. 12, 2002. Oil, alkyd and acrylic on canvas, each 56 x 66cm. Photograph Brenton McGeachie. Courtesy the artists and The Cross Art Projects, Sydney.
1. Gabriele Guercio, ‘Introduction’, in Joseph Kosuth, Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writings, 1966–1990. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. & London, 1991, xxv.
2. Ibid., xxviii.
3. Estelle Jussim, ‘Icons or Ideology: Steiglitz & Hine’, in The Eternal Moment: Essays on the Photographic Image. Aperture, New York, 1989, 143.
This article is in part a response to the ‘cross conversation’ between the curator Christopher Dean, the artists and myself, organised by Cross Projects’ coordinator Jo Holder during the exhibition. Jo saw the resonances between Christopher Dean’s curatorial argument and my recent research in Australian contemporary art. I would like to thank her for her invitation to participate in this dialogue, and for providing supporting material for this article. Thanks also to Christopher and the artists.
Conceptual Crochet featured the work of John Aslanidis, Elizabeth Day, Christopher Dean, Judith Duquemin, Fiona MacDonald, Kate Mackay, Helen Nicholson, Elizabeth Pulie, Jacqueline Rose, Justin Trendall and Shaun Weston. Curated by Christopher Dean it was shown at The Cross Art Projects, Sydney, 12 November-4 December 2004.
Jacqueline Millner is a Sydney-based writer.
Conceptual Crochet Curated by Christopher Dean. Cross Projects, Kings Cross, Sydney. 2004
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Exhibition: Fabric and Fabrication Five Contemporary Artists Who Work With Pattern.
Curated by: Judith Duquemin
Patterns aplenty in the Tin Sheds' new show of innovative works
By Louise Maral
13 March 2006 Pattern in the extreme is the focus of the five established, contemporary artists represented in the exhibition currently showing in the University’s Tin Sheds Gallery, coordinated by award-winning Sydney College of the Arts graduate Judith Duquemin.
Characteristic of Duquemin, her abstracts, based on a complex pattern-making formula and with flat planes of minimal colours, give the illusion of three-dimensional oscillation. Yet these latest works are curiously restful, their contrasting clean curves and hard-edged angles creating a sense of balance rather than conflict.
Significantly, the paintings – and there are just two in this show - are from a series titled “Integrity”, which she says reflects a sense of “completeness about art and life”.
This latest body of work is the culmination of Duquemin’s 18-month research into relationships between painting abstraction and 20th century textile design, undertaken in Europe and the USA. The research was partly funded by SCA’s prized Fauvette Loureiro Memorial Artist Travel Scholarship which Duquemin won in 2004, the year after graduating with a PhD in Visual Art.
In his large silkscreen “Childe Harold/Futurefall”, Justin Trendall – who lectures in SCA’s Printmedia Studio - takes a step further his idea of the ‘phantasmagorical grid’ that we saw in last year’s exhibition in the University Art Gallery.
Intricately patterned in gold on deep red silk, the work mimics the classical frieze, running the full four outer walls of a building-like contruction, while appearing to map a continuous coastline and hinterland, complete with placenames.
Closer inspection, though, reveals the coastal names to jump between those near Sydney, those around Perth and those in the Byronshire for instance, while apparent hinterland area names are the names of specific writers, musicians, visual artists and philosophers or their works, spanning several centuries.
The impression is of a mapping of memories or cultural influence, and - given the circular nature of the work - of a precocious autobiography perhaps.
Kate Mackay both calls on and explodes the domestic connotations of crochet in her brightly coloured, confrontational 3D abstract works which explore the relationship between painting and craft and the ‘uselessness’ of each.
Christopher Dean, an SCA graduate concerned with the ‘ecstatic possibilities of communication’, has incorporated abstracted text into his drawings. His “Conversations with Robert Lake” is a series of short sentences based on his talks with the Sydney gallerist and drawn in a patchwork of soft, vibrant multi-coloured lines.
John Aslanidis considers himself to be a sound artist more than a painter and sound waves are certainly connoted in his “Sonic Network”, a large painting of psychedelic, superimposed patterned circles. His intention in this compelling work was to capture “a fragment of infinity” in an ambiguous zone between sound and vision.
There’s a strong sense of originality and of cohesiveness in this varied exhibition. Titled Fabrication, it connotes the patterning of modernist fabrics that have intrigued Duquemin since her childhood, and reflects each artist’s intention to fabricate autonomous worlds through a making and breaking of the conventions of pattern making.
Duquemin Judith. Holy Hell. 2004. 50 x 60 cm. Acrylic Gouache on Canvas.