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Nine Brisbane artists
Artist-run spaces have always been among the most important and successful venues for young contemporary artists. These spaces give the artist an autonomy that the more rigid administrative structures of contemporary art spaces and commercial galleries are unable, or unwilling, to provide. The Butterfactory, which recently opened in Dayboro, under the directorship of artist, Scott Whitaker, is an impressive example of how well such spaces operate when treated with a careful blend of professionalism and enthusiasm.
One of the most interesting aspects of the space is its very peripheral positioning, some fifty kilometres, from the centre of Brisbane. The artists working in and with the Butterfactory, site soaring rental costs and the sheer unavailability of suitable working areas as the main reason for their move into this rural district. However, such marginalisation from the central area of Brisbane demanded no small amount of commitment on the part of those concerned.
Undoubtedly one of the major rationales for such a move was the marvelous studio space offered by the availability of the old Dayboro Butterfactory. The building, with its loft-like proportions, easily accommodates studio and exhibition space, workshop and living areas.
Nine Brisbane Artists : Sources and Outcomes was the first exhibition for the Butterfactory and as such it introduced the rather eclectic, though nonetheless, democratic nature of this artist-run space. It was an exhibition designed to demonstrate the work of a number of young artists with little previous exposure. Accompanying many of the artists' works were some of the sources they had drawn upon for the execution of their works: small natural found objects such as pieces of coral or rocks, sketches, postcards, photographs and books. This provided an interesting insight into the nature of the artistic process.
In many ways the space was dominated by two of Scott Whitaker's monumental sculptures suspended from the ceiling – Paterna/Myth/Maternal Totem, I & 11. These sculptures are rendered from found metal objects, dismembered and then reassembled with a mixture of wax and fibreglass. In conscious irony of the work, the patina of the surface, with its delicate lace work of rusted metal, imbues the sculptures with the quality of an archaeological artifact reminiscent of some long lost civilization. Thus the original found objects are given new contexts, new patterns of association.
The thematic displacement in the figurative work of Anne Wallace was of particular interest. What first seemed to be reassuring, almost classical, images were less so on closer inspection. Wallace removes that sense of familiarity, by the displacement implied in the positioning of her figures – leaving the viewer unsure of his or her own spectorial space. This is ably demonstrated in the image, Awkward. In a stillness of no temporal dimension, a young girl stares out from the image, a wrought-iron fence behind her narrows the pictorial space she occupies, a space which is further disturbed by the Victorian drinking fountain in the foreground. Her placement is unsettled; she is in fact alienated from the very image she seeks to inhabit.
Responses to the landscape and to natural formations took many approaches in this exhibition. Ally Reynolds' very delicate watercolours and oils on paper are an obvious reference to her arrangements of found objects, the forms of which are dissected and translated into her images. The bowerbird quality of her collecting and her approach to natural elements; leaves, small stones, etc., build a narrative about her approach to the same subject in paint. Stephanie Theobald 's very strong and almost, calligraphic depictions of Moreton Island demonstrate yet another aspect of this empathy with natural forms. In her image, The Desert, Theobald 's sparse use of line and pigments captures the formation of the dunes. Looking Down on Nature demonstrates an assuredness in her explorations of the nature of the spaces themselves.
Don Heron, who works and lives at the Butterfactory, has used this opportunity to formulate an attitude to the landscape of Dayboro and to resolve some aspects of the genre of landscape painting. It is not only the landscape that interests Heron, but those elements that seem so alien to the land but are an inescapable element of this farming community – the machinery, the silo 's and the out-buildings. In his Dayboro Still Life it is the disparities and contrasts which these scars on the terrain give that add a dynamic aspect to the otherwise muted nature of the land. Kale Ryan is also interested in landscape but only as a device with which to expound on the nature of the paint itself. The three large oils Ryan exhibited demonstrated the way she collapses the formal pictorial space until all that remains is a concern with the surface.
There is a sense of order and clarity imposed upon the landscape in Alison Hill 's gouaches. Her work is informed by a particularly keen sense of geometric relationships. In Bunya Pine, the form of the single pine is mirrored by the three peacock feathers placed precisely beneath it, drawing analogies between the repetition of design within nature. These formal concerns are continued in Hill 's series of delicately worked paper sculptures. The twists of the sculpture Spiral-Continuum rise with all the complexity and intricacy of a double helix-the pattern of life itself.
Of a more personal, less formal, nature is the work of Maria MacDermott and Ann Buzolic. MacDermott's seven works on paper question the nature of human relationships, contrasting our expectations of them with their more complex realities. In their rendition, works such as David – Beloved Friend and This Foolish Game are reminiscent of Joy Hester's Lovers series and are as passionately worked. Although MacDermott derives much of her subject matter from dream/fantasy states, there is a significant proportion of autobiography inherent within her watercolours. Ann Buzolic works with both photography and collage. The collages are delightfully whimsical, the text within the images taken from such diverse texts as Great Catholics, Gene Autry and books on Christian Science. This source material is of particular interest in images such as But Here I Was Trapped which explores the tensions caused by notions of duty and desire. Buzolic 's photographs are spontaneous snapshots, not, as she is quick to point out, art photography and although taken in many different locations the artist attempts to capture a certain intimacy of gesture.
Although the show suffered from being a little bit of everything, Nine Artists: Sources and Documents was a very successful first exhibition for the Butterfactory. The exhibition easily fulfilled the agenda of the space by demonstrating that non-profit artist co-operatives can provide workable and exciting alternatives to the other gallery systems and, perhaps most importantly, it showed that the centre is not always the only area of activity and that it is more than possible to work successfully on the periphery.