Lines of force

The obvious professionalism and finish of this show suggests a very conscious move away from the now rather hackneyed romantic ideal of the artist as peripheral, marginalized dissident. Cool but not cold, critical, but not clinical, all the works purvey an absence rather than a presence. From the ironical use of spiritualism, as a symbol of the way society hides its callous interiors behind a mask of myth and "mystery", to the detached objectivity of the conceptual and computer pieces, there is an overriding sense of the artist as removed.

This carefully observed phenomenon establishes a self-critical, self-reflexive framework for the show in which curator, Graham CoulterSmith, succeeds in confirming his notion that there is much quality art in Brisbane which is not expressionistic.

The sense of total objectivity is most evident in the beautifully intricate computer generated images, created by a computer after the artist, Adam Welter, has entered a mathematical formula. In contrast, Jeanelle Hurst displays a potpourri video collage. A jumble of video images and computer generated text act as a conscious disruption of the ordered plasticity of this essentially masculine dominated technology.

Scott Redford shows no mercy in his distrust of the notion of the artist as creative genius with his Warholesque non-participation in the production of of his works. Mark Webb, on the other hand, employs a paradoxically tidy minimalist approach to his anti-art (history) installation. An art history book, waste paper bin and broom serve to illustrate that the primary function of art history is simply to tidy up.

References to art history appear again in the work of Alien Furlong. Highly seductive pencil drawings of The Blessed Saint Ludivica Albertoni in ecstasy and a large flayed man appropriate and harness the power of traditional art imagery and techniques. The pieces expose the role of art as one of manipulation. Submitted to processes of repression and mutation, and blown up to cinema scale, they become a simulacrum of authority, an absurdly grandiose mass media-type hype.

Jay Younger's deconstruction of "romance" via simulated photomontage narratives are presented in tacky, plastic "art" frames. The focus of women under threat creates an emotional situation which appears to be typically "feminine" but which is, in fact, keenly sarcastic and ironical; while at the same time remaining pleasurably sophisticated.

John Stafford's smooth and glossy bromide prints combine the artificial with the "beautiful". His flat laminated images of the Madonna in a (gold) wire cage, and an angel juxtaposed with synthetic leaves and a stock exchange report suggest, respectively, the imposition of grids of reason over a reified past, and the commodification of the spiritual.

This sense of cooly observed faith is also present in the work of Wayne Smith. The contemporary destruction of meaning is staged in the form of a post-apocalyptic vision. A photocopied charcoal desert of mass media images paper the wall and floor. A broken sign lies on the floor, and a stack of rotting books rests on an empty chair. Smith's ultramarine blue window which hangs on the dark wall, acts as an ironical commentary upon the sham of spirituality in a society of total simulation.

Leanne Ramsay photographs humans in an attempt to deconstruct the "truth" and "reality" that social photography promises. A series of smaller photos, interposed between her larger "realistic" photos, show a carefully fabricated narrative which suggests that the apparent spontaneity of the larger photos is in fact quite set up, and that one can only search for meaning within a simulated framework.

Lines of Force not only supports curator Graham Coulter-Smith's theoretical position, but is also a rigorous endeavour on behalf of the artists to break away from the constraints imposed upon the cultural situation in Brisbane.

Adam Wolter, Field Effects Hyperbolic Curve, 1987