11 April – 5 May 2018

Bill Culbert is up to his old tricks again. One of them is his way with deadpan puns. Time tables are how we travel on as well as in time; they are how we calculate the passing of time; they may also be what we make of time as an assemblage of things that locate it materially. These things could include tables, as well as other objects, that can be dated and that may also become dated with the passing of time.  

   In 1992, Culbert made an assemblage called ‘Hotel Sydney’ consisting of a wood and metal table, a suitcase plastered with travel stickers (places that time tables got him to in time), fluorescent tubes, and electrical cable. The table looked back in time to Culbert’s favourite low-cost post-war designers such as Clive Latimer, Robin Day and Jean Prouvé. The whole assemblage also remembered the utility of the décharge near his and Pip’s home in Provence, the source of much of Culbert’s bricolage material as well as useful stuff for the house. When scavenging the tip, it was only a matter of time before some of the recycles became household items or art – or, in another kind of pun, both.    

The Culbert house in London has a standard lamp with a plastic bucket as its shade. It looks like ‘a Culbert’.  There are wall-mounted assemblages of plastic containers pierced by fluorescent tubes that came to be known as Bottle Combinations beginning in 1985 with Long White Cloud – some of these can be found lighting domestic spaces. There are works that have travelled in time: the punning Table Lamp II (1982) consisted of what looks like a genuine Robin Day table pierced by a fluorescent tube. The work was ‘lost’ but ‘remade’ in 2004, thus becoming a time-traveller.    

     In the current exhibition there are elegant variations on the ‘bottle combinations’ that extend the lifetime of a series yet to time out after more than twenty years. There is also an assemblage, Time Tables (2018) of a timeworn Latimeresque wood and metal desk providing the foundation for a stacked chrome table and a plastic seat-table-lamp-combo that read like fresh-faced reissues of post-war moderne. They are pierced, or united perhaps, by a neon tube. The tube might even be seen as an archaeological measuring device, calibrating and illuminating a vertical time line of things recovered from the midden or décharge of discarded objects. Culbert has reunited these ‘objects of my affection’, as Man Ray called his versions of Duchampian readymades, in time for their performance of his time-tested wit.

—Ian Wedde

Bill Culbert was born in Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1935 and now lives and works in London and France. He studied fine art at Canterbury University School of Art (1953–56) and in 1957 he received a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London, gaining a silver medal for painting. Since the 1960s, Culbert has had more than 100 solo exhibitions at major institutions in New Zealand, England, Europe, the USA and Australia, among many group exhibitions and public commissions. In 2013 Culbert represented New Zealand at the 55th Venice Biennale, his exhibition 'Front Door Out Back' was displayed in the New Zealand pavilion, sited at the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà. Notable solo exhibitions include ‘Central Station, The Return’, Andata Ritorno, Geneve (2016); ‘Bill Culbert’, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole, France (2015); ‘Bill Culbert’, National Art School, Sydney (2015); ‘Light levels’, Château des Adhémar, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Montélimar, France (2014); ‘Bill Culbert: State of Light’, Peer, London (2009); and ‘Bill Culbert: Groundworks’, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand (2008). Major public commissions include a large neon work for the PriceWaterhouseCoopers Tower in Auckland, and Skyline a 30-metre-long neon installation for the Millennium Dome in London.

Time Tables will be Bill Culbert’s forth solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

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