Kael Stasce majored in painting at art school, but he has always found himself more interested in the situations outside of the canvas.
Behind a typical painting sits a pine frame with nails that anchor the stretched skin of the canvas over its edges. Steel latches hang loose, ready to be mounted onto the brass hooks against the wall. Placement is measured with spirit levels and tapes, careful pencil lines tracing locations on the wall for the painted illusions to be hung square and true.
For Stasce, all of these elements are taken into consideration and deconstructed throughout the narrative of his works which read like puzzles, laced with humour and a grungy minimalism issued by a painter’s eye. The gallery space is where things happen, a place for investigations and art experiments to fully realise themselves. The artist is a lover of hardware, a bike mechanic, art installer and revhead devoted to his project car, a Series 1 Mazda RX7. Whilst these elements seem unrelated, they are critical to understanding the way he approaches his practice. He is constantly reading his environment, seeing the cast of light on a scattered handful of screws, the triangular frame of a bike isolating his view or searching for ripples while restoring a front quarter panel. This improvised approach of ‘adhockery’ lies at the core of Stasce’s work of strong assemblage styled sculptural works and bold abstracts with an underlying nuanced painterly response to colour, line and form.
Following on from ‘Make Do’ at artist-run Tributary Projects, ‘Art Show’ at ANCA Gallery, marks a return to the canvas for the first time since graduating in 2014 from the Australian National University School of Art, Canberra.
Stasce relishes the opportunity to test out ideas, generally making his works for the first time in-situ as a response to the gallery site, contextualising individual works in their environment. He believes his works have a goal to achieve, or a problem to solve. Stasce often presents a visual contradiction that acts as an invitation to look closer and consider repositioning yourself, the viewer. In ‘Shoot the Bubble’ a spirit level sits unequivocally perfect and centred on a stretcher bar, it tells you that the wooden frame is level despite your eye’s disbelief, until the intention is realised in the uneven gallery wall. These playful interventions reshape our perceptions of architectural spaces and are reminiscent of Rosalind Krauss’ seminal essay ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ 1979. As Krauss sought to define the emergence of a new definition of sculpture that was ‘not-architecture and not-landscape’, similarly, Stasce’s works are self-reflexive and question the act of painting itself. The works are an aggregate of form, colour, space and light, creating narrative through materiality and spatial interventions through objects, which in his own words ‘make the hidden, visible.’
Stasce’s abstracts include pops of colour and raw materials, incorporating the textures of found objects such as planks from an old easel, scratched yellow road signs or factory offcuts. Making his works on site allows for everyday objects to filter their way in. HB pencils, looped rubber bands or shredded gloves are all part of Stasce’s material vocabulary and give his work a disarmingly fresh edge. In Sample (2019), hot pink builders line holds two oblong forms together and in MarkR (2019), the non-space is outlined by feathered black overspray after being stencilled by the squared wood panel sitting directly beneath it, referencing Rothko’s iconic doubled fields of colour. Although Stasce’s work appears loose with improvised constructions, he is meticulous in outlining his ideas and intention. His playful tendencies to minimalism also nod to Donald Judd, Richard Tuttle, Ted Larsen and Mark Rothko as clear influencers.
This material palette aligns with the sincerity in Stasce’s making process – the instantaneous mark, the choice of materials and the intense exploration of their possibilities to transform, carry light, tighten, slump or frame. This also lends itself to a strong humorous bent that runs solidly through Stasce’s work. The ‘fuck up’ is celebrated as a way of showing the working out process whilst also serving a vulnerability that compliments Stasce’s aim to draw out hidden truths. Stasce leaves his material thought process on display for audiences – the chocked up screw to level and re-hang the transparent Perspex frame – and in this way Stasce is constantly toying with ideas of truth, deception, illusion and perception. ‘Art Show’ promises to deliver fresh and intriguing works with a material candour that packs an exploratory punch.
Rosalind Lemoh is a writer and artist based in Canberra. She is currently the Critic-in-Residence at ANCA Gallery.
17 July to 4 August 2019
Australian Capital Territory