3 March – 26 March 2005
Five artists were invited to create a new body of work for a group exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. No particular theme was prescribed. The resulting show, If these walls could talk, comprises a collection of paintings, sculptures and short silent films by Tony Clark, Callum Morton, David Noonan, Kathy Temin and Jenny Watson. When considering the themes and formal attributes of these artists’ works, a common interest in interiors or internal dialogues, both literal and figurative, suggests itself as a possible way of navigating the exhibition.
Tony Clark abstracts the three primary historical genres of painting—landscape, portrait, still life—pushing them towards the domain of the decorative arts, exploring the dialogue between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, between the emotionally expressive painted surface and spatially imposing sculptural form. The story of how painting attends architecture and of how the urge to depict the external world may be subordinated to an alternative logic which is structured by the demands imposed by the requirements of decoration, in the process of visually intensifying otherwise functional surfaces (e.g. walls, doorways, dinnerware). Or it may be dominated by some other formula as with Clark’s Myriorama paintings of the 1980s/90s. In the current exhibition, circular landscapes offer no correct way up. The logic of their structure is self-reflexive, speaking only of their own centre and circumference, like a pre-Copernican cosmology, like a decorative pattern on a plate. Similarly, the two four-panel still lifes are modular, there being no true cardinal orientation to the composition. A painted self-portrait in a reduced palette economically suggests a sculpted facades.
Callum Morton’s two free-standing sculptures express abrupt violations of limits, invasion and explosion of a world of otherwise orthogonal blandness and clarity. They are ruptured utilitarian structures, terrorised strongholds. A small monochrome safe with an enamel finish has been exploded from inside, fracturing its walls in what Morton describes as a form of ‘bankruptcy’. He first constructs the object in a computer-aided drawing program and then applies the crudest readymade gesture available to the artist in the software’s toolbox. The pleasure of carefully constructing and then destroying the object all happens on screen and then a frozen moment of the animation is rendered in three dimensions. In the second work, a large rock bulges from within a modernist security checking booth. Simple metaphors are rendered in micro narratives.
From David Noonan’s five bleach paintings on black cloth and two silent, painterly black and white Super 8 films, a somewhat haunted aesthetic emerges, nostalgic for the transported consciousness of 1970s mystic bohemian culture. Figures in trance-like states stare into a forest or across a lake, highly detailed ‘oriental’ caftan designs are camouflaged within the natural lace patterns of a leafy enclosure and ethereal dappled light. With his bleach paintings, Noonan represents light by taking blackness away via the application of diluted bleach to stretched black cloth. In his utopian images, narratives are suggested but not fully articulated. The concern is with atmospherics, the way in which the meditative psychological interior infiltrates or is continuous with its physical surrounds. Javanese Wayang puppets - one of the oldest oral traditions of storytelling - feature in the exhibition in both painting and film. Wayang is the Javanese word for ‘shadow’ or ‘ghost’. With their back-projected images, Wayang performances are proto-cinematic. Noonan in turn films the performance redoubling the fascination of moving shadows. In his second film in the exhibition, the camera is turned on his now signature painting subject. Ground-dwelling owls, solitary or in couples, inhabit a grassy enclosure like ancient ascetics. They are both alien and familiar, a grainy memory housed in celluloid.
Kathy Temin presents the first in a new series of works, large dolls’ houses modeled from memory of places she has lived. The work in If these walls could talk is the Moet & Chandon chateau in Epernay, France, where recipients of the prestigious art fellowship each lived for twelve months. Temin was the final winner of this award in 1999 before it became defunct. Her sculpture presents a continuation of her theme of habitats, one that is very personal but which at the same time looms large in the memories of a select group of Australian contemporary artists and the visitors they received. It is a memory made concrete in wood, fake fur, paint, gravel and dolls’ furniture, a private experience exhibited in a public space. With this work, Temin returns to her signature hand-made textures after a few years of working with glass and photography. With her humanistic attitude toward materials and production she reconstructs the memory of a space gained from dwelling as opposed to the supervision of an architect’s plan. Its idealization is based upon the retelling of personal experience rather than principles of design. Peering through a window of the façade a tiny screen plays a video of Temin’s party in the chateau on the eve of the new millennium.
The text panels of Jenny Watson’s paintings recount tender anecdotes based on memories both experienced and anticipated that the artist has been witness to in public places. These are combined with images painted on decorative French dress fabrics - Watson’s ready-made backgrounds. She paints a magpie on the back of a horse (a scene that she sees everyday out the window of her house) in large scale on an assertive floral ground and a self portrait (horse and rider) in small scale under the scrutiny of a microscope. Watson often uses scale as a metaphor for expressing moments of confidence/lack of confidence. Personal resilience is tested regularly when Watson competes in dressage equestrian competition. The contest subjects each physical attribute of horse and rider to harsh criticsm. This microscope is painted on a print cloth with trees and tigers. The printed patterns provide an alternative focus to the painted image that Watson invents. In these works, Watson unveils an emotional interior that speaks of pleasure, love, loss.
Tony Clark was selected for Documenta IX in 1992. A major retrospective exhibition of his work, Tony Clark -- Public and Private Paintings 1982-1998, was held at the Museumof Modern Artat Heide in Melbournein 1998. Clarkhas been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1983. Callum Morton was selected for the Indian Triennial in 2005 and Face Up, an exhibition of twelve Australian artists at the Hamburger Bahnhoff in Berlinin 2004. In 2004 a retrospective was held of his work at the Museumof Contemporary Art, Sydney. Morton has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1998. A solo exhibition of David Noonan’s paintings, sculpture and film is opening at Monash University Museum of Art in April 2005. Two monographs on Noonan’s work are about to be published, one by Thames & Hudson, the other a catalogue to accompany the Monash exhibition. Noonan has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 2000. Kathy Temin won the Moet & Chandon traveling scholarship in 1999. The second in her series of dolls’ houses will be exhibited in New ’05 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbournein March 2005. Temin has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1992. Jenny Watson represented Australiaat the VeniceBiennale in 1993. She was selected for Prospect 1993at the Frankfurter Kunstverein and Popism, curated by Paul Taylor, at the National Gallery of Victoriain 1982. Watson has exhibited with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1982.u200b
All of the artists in the exhibition have exhibited extensively in Australia, the US and Europe.