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"It is ... important to me that my work is evocative. "1
evoke--call up (spirit from the dead, response, feeling,
memories, energies) so evocation evocative evocatory
evolute 1- (Math) locus of centres of curvature of
another curve that is its involute
evolute 2--Develop by evolution
evolution ... 2
Garry Andrews' painting is produced in the nebulous space between evocation and evolution. Drawn and Courted is representative of four years of his work-the evolution of an artistic vocabulary.
The works, large acrylic canvasses and pastel drawings, are thoroughly modernist-evoking and evolving their linear historical source (mainly) in the 1950s (Pollock et al) when the energy of modernism perhaps peaked equally high as at its inception in fin de siecle France. Painterly Abstraction, in its confounding of the personal and universal, of form and content, continues to attract and define the artist and audience of today. It is a trope based upon mystification, invested in the aura of the art object and the contemplative, anonymous space of the gallery.
evolution: The works' success lies in Andrews' evolution of a 'personal' iconography. This is quite a conscious, formalist process. Chosen key symbols ("masks, hearts, moons, terrestrial landforms such as rocks, tree trunks or abstract figures derived from such forms") recur, imbuing them with an iconic status and generating a self-reflexivity within the oeuvre. The artist is individualised, as the works, turning in upon themselves, create a realm of subjectivity.
evocation: The symbols themselves, however, are intended to evoke universal meaning. The formal framework for their evolution Andrews calls a 'totemic structure", something considered pre-individual. The icons are evoked, 'called up', so that a heart is seen but not quite seen, a mask masked. Painting itself becomes the medium/method for disguising an iconic subtext of half –glimpsed 'truths'. Andrews' work, to be evocative, implicitly relies on the subtext, cast as Other.
evolution: "Totemic structures", a painterly veil, bridging representation and abstraction, conscious and unconscious, is also a more direct form of primitivism, of Darwinian evolution. Tribal cultures are inclusively cast as part of Andrews' Other- inferring that these cultures are somehow more in touch with the unconscious (less 'civilised '), ruled by primitive taboos which, by implication, we Westerners do not possess.
In order to clarify better Andrews' modernist dependence on the subtext, it is useful to compare Drawn and Courted with Lyn Plummer's installation at the Queensland Art Gallery (courtesy of Roz macAllan), which showed concurrently. In
Plummer's work the process of mystification is used as a strategy, a context. The installation was set up as a type of temple. Soft porn images and religious Madonna icons were ritually structured, overlaid in gold and veiled with cloth. Religious chant was played in the background. The viewer, entering a hallowed space and lifting a veil over the mysterious imagery, was confronted with images of women as advertising props, soft porn and religious icons. Plummer's dialectical use of mystification deconstructed the Mary/Eve, wife/whore polarity. She exposed the misogynist taboos of Western culture, consciously and ironically invoking the aura of the art object and of the contemplative gallery space. Mystification become the context for a feminist deconstruction. Andrews' visual text does not expose and deconstruct the binary oppositions which generate his meanings. His intuitive praxis relies on an homogeneous text-a 'faith' in meaning and response; aesthetics as ends, not means.
evocation: This is in no way to deny the power of evocation and the icon which metonymically centres Andrews' works. Plummer's installation was also inventive of its own icons. They are icons intended to evoke, 'call up', a feminist future. However, in contrast to Andrews' icons, they are not associated with the unconscious or the Other. They are formulated metaphorically as representation- constructs negotiated within the vast array of prevailing female iconography. Andrews' icons do not compete for their power: they signify, unthreatened, within the separatist art historical tradition of modernism. Lyn Plummer, from her female position, has no such history to draw upon.
evolute: Removed from the 'shock' of the avantgarde, Andrews' iconography evokes and evolves in historical nostalgia. The lasting impact of the intensely worked surfaces takes on a magnetic innocence. Divorced from the heroism that painterly abstraction once heralded, this body of work speaks more humbly of artistic labour and process. Surfaces speaking for themselves. The large, 'drawn' brushmarks are 'courted' in Andrews' intimate, artistic romance with his work.
1. This and subsequent quotes from artist statement, Evocation of Spirit.
2. Oxford English Dictionary