1 February – 25 February 2006

Only with mathematics do symbol and referent fit neatly together, only in that domain are meanings unambiguous and do things truly add up. Elsewhere, identities and the relationships between things are harder to know. Artists expose the fissures with which our experiences of the world are riddled. They ask us to read the illegible and subscribe to ambiguity. To examine the breach. Such tendencies toward disorientation push the experiential threshold resulting in works that have a powerful physical and/or psychological resonance. Rectangular Ghost presents the work of six artists who intuitively feel their way, producing idiosyncratic insights into various dimensions of this phenomenal world.


Robin Fox makes us listen to image and look at sound. His cathode ray oscilloscope, the device that translates a digital sound file into an analogue visual display, permits this. The two dimensions - sound and image - communicate via the common denominator of electrical current. Left and right signals of the audio input are mapped onto vertical and horizontal axes of a visual display within a square field defined by four electromagnets. When there is no sound, the point of light is at rest in the centre of the screen (like a dead heartbeat). When the hisses, beeps and static scratchings of the sound composition are fed into the oscilloscope, excited geometric patterns of light scribble and weave simultaneously around the x and y coordinates of the screen producing an apparition of sound life. Volta, the work composed for Rectangular Ghost, has the energy and feeling of improvisation that is typical of a live musical performance. Heightened states of tension are built by Fox between hyperactivity and a kind of fractured stillness with things never tending to rest. Many of the images that evolve in the work could only be generated by overloading the digital sampling system employed by the artist and by using frequencies above and below the audible limit for human beings. Fox's materials are sound, numbers, frequency, amplitude and phase relationships.


Michelle Hanlin plays with the language of heraldry and grotesque decorative forms, incorporating paraphernalia borrowed from nature and other historical visual traditions into a series of cryptic coats of arms rendered in acrylic on canvas. Shields emblazoned with the formalities of symmetry confer regality upon sub-serious subjects with the economy of caricature and the soft palette of eighteenth-century interior design. Hanlin, who also makes sculpture, typically employs the frontality of icons to confer majesty upon and direct focus onto her subjects that otherwise inhabit the margins of our attention. She mixes these with bits of iconic Australiana (e.g. constellations, geological forms and native flora and fauna) bedecked with ermine, acanthus, scrolls, crowns. Hanlin collects all these 'spare parts' and arranges them into coats of arms - shields of some lost aristocratic bloodlines - that command our attention and our respect.


Christopher Hanrahan creates an arid no-man's land haunted by figures of speech. The speaking subject and his words are literally emptied out. Diaristic phrases - sometimes legible - are articulated by holes in humble plywood, a rendering of the void to which he corresponds. Light accentuates the objects like the volume of one's own thoughts. Hanrahan collects the sometimes paradoxical expressions by which we negotiate the subtleties and violent gestures of the social world. Snatches from embarrassed conversations, idle soliloquies and the laying down of paternal imperatives dissolve into their basic material components on close inspection or when viewed from the other side. The phrases also harbour semantic conundrums. Hanrahan's is a world where "it" is "nothing", "now" is more than "ever" and identity is an insubstantial thing. These are "slipped" portraits of the artist. The phrases imply an interlocutor - if only the walls - as the works imply a viewer. Hanrahan is witness to the pathos inherent in the scaffolding of our lives and pays lip service to and puns upon the suggestion of the Delphic Oracle: "Know (No) Thyself".


Newell Harry plays games with formal questions of arrangement and organisation. He makes sculpture - sometimes altered readymades - photographs and drawings. Sculpture is central to his practice. Harry often constructs objects from prosaic building materials which he has imbued with the aura of some mystical tribal artefact or the trappings of a lost cargo cult. These things then appear in his photographs where he has also inserted himself, playing out some energetic performance with the sculpture. This living element then haunts those images - formal still life arrangements - from which he is absent. Likewise, language provides Harry with more material for his formal antics. In his black and white text and number drawings (again employing tradesman's materials), Harry juggles the mutations and transformations of language in its various dimensions, exposing the arbitrary relationships between the meanings of words and the graphic and phonetic shapes of their representation. Words are minced and reconstituted into anagrams, rhymes and homonyms like banners of rude and dumbed-down poetry.  A large sculpture - a found and altered mini-golf course - occupies the floor like a giant puzzle.


Pep Prodromou turns the tree - traditional symbol of life and aspiration - into a gathering of the dead. Her installation, The Séance, is a forest consumed by darkness that activates our primal senses and heightens activity of the imagination. Entering the trees, one feels one's way along a dark path, dwarfed by the tall presences around us. We come to an opening where, even in the solitude of darkness, it feels as though we are surrounded by a crowd - shadows, silhouettes of trees. Prodromou's work makes us encounter our body in its progression through an unusual medium and our mind which, in the absence of light, is opened up to things unseen.


Jemima Wyman paints liquid landscapes with liquid paint, pouring her medium onto the canvas with a turkey baster like giant icing on a giant cake. The panoramic format of her work is a theatrical backdrop and indeed Wyman often uses her paintings as part of a set for performance which she then documents as video. With the poured landscapes, Wyman's signature pumped-up high-key palette fractures the fictive topography of the image with arbitrary allocation of colour, disorienting the viewer. The work in Rectangular Ghost has strange symmetries. Based on a found image of the Venice canals in Los Angeles where the artist is currently living, the painting gives the sense of a scene folded along vertical and horizontal axes and of the not quite real aspect of a Hollywood copy of an Italian relic.


 The title of the exhibition comes from an anecdote that Sydney artist David Haines told the writer after a performance by Robin Fox at Artspace Sydney in October 2005. "My mother told me a story about going to a park in London where she saw a rectangular ghost."

Amanda Rowell


Robin Fox is a Melbourne-based sound and audio-visual artist who has performed extensively internationally and is a regular performer at music festivals in Australia such as What is Music and Electrofringe. In 2005, his work was screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands. He is currently completing a PhD in composition at Monash University. Fox will perform live at the opening of Rectangular Ghost and has composed a new cathode-ray oscilloscope sound/image work for the exhibition.

Michelle Hanlin is a Sydney-based artist working in painting and sculpture. She completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) from Sydney College of the Arts in 2004. In 2005 she was selected for an international group exhibition, Where the Wild Things Are, at UTS Gallery, Sydney, and in 2004 she was Highly Commended for her inclusion in the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship exhibition at Artspace, Sydney. Hanlin has exhibited extensively at artist-run galleries in Australia and is exhibiting a new series of emblem paintings for Rectangular Ghost.

Christopher Hanrahan is a Sydney-based artist working in sculpture, video, collage and text. In 2003, he completed his Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) at Sydney College of the Arts. Hanrahan has exhibited extensively in artist-run galleries in Australia and was a former co-director of Gallery Wren, Sydney. In 2005 he had a solo exhibition, The road is long, (I wasn't worried anyway)., at Esa Jaske Gallery, Sydney. Reviews of his exhibitions have appeared in Art & Australia, Art/Text, Eyeline and The Art Life. Hanrahan is producing a new series of plywood text panels for Rectangular Ghost.

Newell Harry is a Sydney-based artist working in sculpture, drawing and photography. He completed his Master of Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts, Sydney in 2004. Harry has been the recipient of a number of academic awards for his art practice and received a High Commendation for his inclusion in the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, in 2002. He has exhibited in artist-run and university galleries in Sydney. Harry will be exhibiting a large new floor sculpture as well as a new series of photographs and drawings for Rectangular Ghost.

Pep Prodromou is a Sydney-based installation artist. She graduated with Honours from Sydney College of the Arts in 2004. Her installation, The Séance, in Rectangular Ghost is her SCA graduation show work. Until recently, Prodromou was a co-director of the artist-run gallery, Phatspace, Sydney. She has exhibited in artist-run and university galleries in Sydney and Melbourne and in 2005 she exhibited at Mori Gallery, Sydney.

Jemima Wyman is a Brisbane-based artist working in performance, video, sculpture and painting and is currently undertaking her Master of Fine Arts at CalArts, in Los Angeles as part of a Samstag Scholarship. In 2005 Wyman was selected for Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and in 2004 she was awarded the Australia Council studio in Los Angeles.  She is represented by Bellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Wyman is producing a new poured landscape painting for Rectangular Ghost.

Exhibition opening: Wednesday 1 February, 6-8pm

Exhibition dates: 1 February – 25 February, 2006

Gallery hours: Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday 11am - 6pm

View exhibition