Between appearances: the art of Louise Weaver

From the interlocking loops of yarn to the overlapping smears of thick paint on a blank canvas, Louise Weaver’s multidisciplinary practice examines the embryotic state of nature; its fragility yet endurance and ability to adapt through reinvention and rejuvenation, continually. Unfolding worlds reveal a myriad of sub-themes from; contemporary social concerns, including femininity and environmentalism, to broader conceptual thoughts of artificiality and transformation. In exploring Weaver’s work – both individual pieces and expansive sculptural installations – the viewer encounters variations of colour, interlace of thread and layers of paint. They suggest multiple states and dimensions; a space ‘between’.

Installation view, Between Appearances: the art of Louise Weaver, with L-R: Hiding in Plain Sight (witch grass nest), 2011–12; Bird hide, 2011; Much deeping (column with growth), 2011; and Object of the sun, 2009, Buxton Contemporary, The University of Melbourne, 15 November 2019–9 February 2020. Photographs Christian Capurro. Courtesy the artist and Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne

Curated by Melissa Keys, ‘Between appearances: the art of Louise Weaver’ features more than 100 works: including sculptural installations, paintings, drawings, printmaking, collage, textiles, movement and sound, from the late 1980s to the present, unfolding across all four of Buxton Contemporary’s galleries – her largest solo survey exhibition to date.

‘Between appearances’, in content and title, references ‘Weaver’s fascination with cycles of growth, transformation and metamorphosis, the intricacies of camouflage, the dynamics and fragility of the natural world, knowledge, memory and the power of mythology and make-believe,’ says the museum. The audience first encounters Weaver’s earliest works on paper, as well as paintings such as Man falling from a horse (1988), an appropriated and reworked image from a novel. The illustration served as an introduction to narrative and a forerunner in her later interest in concealing, transforming and animating an existing scene.

Each room outlines Weaver’s romance with structural compositions, playfully directing scenes, whether two or three-dimensional, of fantastical creatures, iridescent other worlds, uncanny objects and unsettling organic forms. Her amplified, craft-like way of taxidermy, from the fashion-conscious fox, the pom-pom headed and wall-mounted parrot, and the talisman wearing black hare are displayed alongside a chandelier-like aviary and roped waterfall, black and white prints and monochromatic abstract or non-objective paintings about natural phenomenon and climate change. Two newly commissioned large-scale paintings, Diagram for the structures of feeling (Lilac sea) (2019) and Diagram for the structures of feeling (The Green Ray) (2019) are an exhibition highlight. With its bristles smeared in thick paint, Weaver’s brush glides across the canvas creating bands of variegated colour symbolic of the sunset and it’s visual effect over water – conjuring a Felix Valloton palette, form and suspicions of what lies beneath.

Installation view, Between Appearances: the art of Louise Weaver, with Taking a chance on love (detail), 2003, Buxton Contemporary, The University of Melbourne, 15 November 2019–9 February 2020. Photograph: Christian Capurro. Courtesy the artist and Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne

Weaver plays with form and physiology in her menagerie of animal sculptures, saturated in exaggerated colour. These re-imagined taxidermy models in decorative ‘skins’ are created with crochet, appliqué and weaving. Through each stitch, knit and purl, Weaver fashions an armour-like sheath, ironically from delicate fabric such as lambswool or silk; a contrast of natural and artificial, vulnerability and protection, ephemeral and the permanent, and the beautiful and the bizarre – oscillating from one to the other, distinctions become blurred and we begin to question and search for its true meaning.

Taking a chance on love (2003) is an expansive tableau pulsating with red pigment; a warning of danger, and love. Patterned Japanese silk-covered stones, furry mounds and rocks with knitted membranes emerge from the surface of a shag-pile carpet – a bear, squirrel and mink gambol among the terrain. Branches covered with polyester cherry blossoms and a Vico Magistretti Eclisse table lamp with a rotating inner shield to simulate lunar phases, if desired, reference time – the fleeting nature of life’s moments, spontaneity; more importantly, renewal.

The more muted Hiding in plain sight (witch grass nest) (2011-12) is a large suspended nest made from deconstructed and repurposed cane lasts from Isamu Noguchi Akari light sculpture, shells, plastic, raffia and a variety of other mediums. From afar it appears empty, but upon closer observation, our imaginations activate a mise en scéne of bird activity and envision a place of refuge. The structure, inspired by weaver birds, is safely positioned between a gallery wall and the vertical canopy, Bird Hide (2011). The large screen invokes the temporary manmade structures, often camouflaged, created for passive viewing of birds at close quarters. Bird sounds can be heard. Here, Weaver transports us to a place where we can connect with nature, watching and listening.

Weaver’s oeuvre is an alternative evolutionary course – an engineered twist on natural and human selection that creates a fabricated world of hybrid anthropomorphic creatures and space for self-reflection and our own transformation.

Buxton Contemporary
Until 9 February 2020
Melbourne