Bronwyn Clark-Coolee

Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
October 11 - October 29, 1988

The recent exhibition by Bronwyn Clark-Coolee contained only two works, My Subjectivity and Equivalence but within these works ran a fascinating network of ideas, theories and conjectures, all filtered through the personal concerns of the artist herself.

lt was very much a "working" exhibition; that is an exhibition whereby one can almost feel the mental permutations of the artist as she works through the bulk of theoretical material at her disposal and surprisingly enough would appear to come out reasonably sane at the other end.

My Subjectivity is the work which most demonstrates this "working" process. Composed of ten units, though read as one, this work runs the gamut of any and all appropriated sources without any immediately apparent relationships between them. The viewer is confronted by images taken from such diverse sources as Eighteenth-century portraiture, postcards, Lichtenstein and William Morris, to name but a few, and despite the obvious disparities of such a hybrid mix the work fuses together, establishing a very dynamic dialogue. One of this most appealing aspects of this fusion is the very subtle undercurrent of humour which permeates the work: a humour which delights in drawing attention to the certain ambiguities and paradoxes within the work itself.

From this, one is led to question the nature of Clark-Coolee's appropriations for they do not fit into any little post-modern pigeon hole. Certainly on first viewing they contain the essential pared-back gray and black tonality so often found and easily recognisable, but the artist manages to negate this very strongly for while it is part of the work, it is by no means the sum. The appropriation within My Subjectivity studiously avoids any sense of a ubiquitous presence or definitive statement and in no way seeks to de-value or to de-mystify the image. Instead we are looking at appropriation on a deeply personal level. it has been used as a means of enabling the artist to work through a number of theoretical questions and debates and to highlight certain areas of interest in her work, an example of this being the representation of women, which is a strong theme throughout the piece. Appropriation on such a conceptual plane as this serves a purpose but is not a purpose in itself.

Equivalence, a set of five units, tackles the subject of the city, always a relevant topic for Brisbane. Using an aerial perspective Clark-Coolee gives us a futuristic sense of the city, all geometry and altitude. The buildings becomes entities unto themselves and the very rigid mold of the architecture leaves the skyscrapers to dominate all. The feeling of displacement inherent within these images is added to by views of the city through venetian binds which fragment notions of the city even further. In this view the city becomes a void with no sign of any human activity.

The work of Bronwyn Clark-Coolee retains a quaint and very appealing integrity. The artist maintains that this exhibition is a very pivotal point within her career, a preliminary sketch if you like, of what is to come. In this exhibition she has worked through her ideas and is ready to explore other avenues.