Geoff Lowe

What binds things together
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
18 October -5 November 1988

In these works Lowe reinvents the Australian land­scape as an hallucinatory screen onto which differ­ing visions of place and identity are projected and so lived. As such, there are landscapes made up of bits and pieces both literally and metaphorically. The works themselves are a polyglot of visual ropes and sensibilities derived from a multitude of sources. From the modernist landscape painting of Nolan and Williams to the graceless anomie of Roger Kemp and the psychedelia of sixties pop culture. Lowe does not treat these visual references as detached signifiers however, for they arrive on the canvas laden with the presumptions and desires they histor­ically served. So it is through this collage of disso­nant elements and recomposed images that the works ask the question posed by the exhibitions title, What Binds Things Together.

There is an insistent humanism underlying these works that initially sits oddly with Lowe's apparently ragbag "Anything Goes" appropriations. But in two of the larger works it is possible to see how it is pre­cisely this sort of philosophical and visual contradiction, which Lowe's work relies on for its meaning and impact.

In There's A Hole In The Ozone Layer and The Nature of Love, Lowe describes a generalised urban periphery in the familiar terms of a scrubby littered landscape, using thin paint, bold brushstrokes and sharp but dull colours. This is a purposeless land­scape, a stage where various modes of encounter between things and beings takes place. In The Nature of Love two herds of naked women stare out, one lot copied from the inside cover of a Jimi Hendrix album, the others from the front cover of a 1967 copy of Pix. In the foreground a female figure is painting a small out-of-scale nubile boy into the picture. One of the chief modes of visual entry to these tableaux is via the figure of a prone male, described from an aerial perspective, falling out the front of the picture plane. Electric guitars, love plac­ards, embroidered cushions and so forth litter the scene.

In a painting such as The Nature of Love, meanings are being generated associatively, rather than symbolically. The image is redolent with references to stereotypical constructions of place and communal belonging, without any sense of these being empirically real. At the same time, it is only by referring to these visual cultures as something made up of con­testing political desires, and not as passive reflections of a prior reality, that the agency and power of these cultural projections is itself referred to.