Some things are better understood through touch. When the eyes slip to reveal the limits of vision, we want, and we reach. Yet, we hesitate to lay our hand, to follow its lead and walk blind – along the edge of matter.
As the object is swathed, by its outside, and its surface, always concealing, moving and taking-on body as it shifts, melts and breaks. Substance makes itself (seem) alive – its form remaining open as it behaves, receptive to changes in time and temperature, alert to the atmosphere.
In this way, disparate things adopt properties of their own, like ‘natural states of being’, which are, to be crafted and cared for – performed by the artist. In the hands of Christine Appleby, Riley Beaumont, Mahala Hill, Merryn Lloyd and Lucy Quinn, vital materials such as glass, wax, clay, fibre and wood, are each encouraged to act-up in a tangle of permanent exchange.
Christine Appleby’s expanded textiles emulate our path and pause, through a woven network of raw fibres, entwined with copper wire she figures these floating moments that stream and cut through the ANCA gallery space. Hung from a height, the networks of lines are doubled and given depth by the breaking of the gallery lights. Working too with installation, Riley Beaumont enables paint to do its thing, letting it flow and take to form over time. Once fixed in some solid state, the paint is often pulled from a mould or separated from its formal frame, assembled and given distance, installed amongst other things. Beaumont’s work appears abandoned or worn out, made up perhaps, from the stuff that just happened to be there, as if by accident. In searching for some substance we stumble upon chance, fall into a spatial-trip, our motion being motivated, our bodies pressed into physical extension, insisting on the movement which precedes our every determination.
Change is a constant, both in the world and in the work of Mahala Hill and Lucy Quinn. This ceaseless flux is given force through fire, when in contact with the crust of the earth – in silica based clays and glass – it transforms matter into foreign and forever unpredictable formations. The volatility inherent in these substances is used to set-off alchemical reactions that wander well-beyond the artist’s control. For instance, Hill enacts explosions of ceramic and glazes by trapping and pressing different elements into perilous proximity. Once under fire, the objects fracture and split to expose their interiors, revealing splinters of coloured strata, spills of pooling glaze and fossilised air pockets, each broken fragment sharp and unpredictable with its brittle edge. In contrast, the edges and imperfections of Quinn’s kiln formed objects are contained within a frame, set by the artist and formed into an image. The materially focused practice of these artists also extends to their chosen themes, of memory and entropy, disappearance and disaster.
The same exchange of energy, matter and material accident is essential to the abstract practice of Merryn Lloyd. Working with wax infused with pigments, her encaustic painting process relies on the invisible labour of other non-human beings (the bees), occurring in other not-here spaces. Hot worked and freshly dipped, the wax-mess from past pieces is rolled up and stuck on, nailed in or melted down, re-applied by the brush in loops of rhythmic application. Intimately hand-scaled – no bigger than a book – Lloyd’s enigmatic pieces compel a boundless depth, with small peaks and events all taking place upon her timber supports. Often, these boards have roughly sawn edges cut at imprecise angles, asserting their existence as mere fragments, as part of something much greater, as if entire worlds persist alongside, but out of sight.
‘At the Edge of Matter’ reveals the tensions inherent in any exchange of immanence, between the world and the work, between an artist’s process and the dynamic, physical properties of the matter they manipulate. Within these worldly manifestations, the material character of our relations passes through moments of presence and disappearance, where the object takes on figural meanings, as metaphor, and interface – upon which can decide to either impress or embrace.
Oscar Capezio is an artist and curator, all-about Canberra.
5 to 15 December, 2018
Australian Capital Territory