dis/Place

Trudi Prideaux, Anne Lord, Barbara Pierce, Kim Mahood
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and Umbrella Studio, Townsville

On a number of levels, dis/Place could be said to involve notions of extension. It included the work of four women artists who are members of Townsville's Umbrella Studio, it challenged traditional representations of the land and the environment, and it questioned the perceived position of the artist/s within the art-political landscape of Queensland.

With reference to the regional exchange program, whereby the Institute of Modern Art's (IMA's) exhibitions, dis/Place, curated by Nicholas Tsoutas and Who's Sorry Now, by Michele Helmrich, have been shown also at Umbrella Studio, Tsoutas outlined the IMA's intent: a repositioning of the Centre from without; a re-radicalising of discourses from the margins; the displacement of mythologies and the denial of dependence and prejudice.

Trudi Prideaux's installation in dis/Place was concerned with the socio-historical uses of high art imagery. The visitor was provided with a 'backdrop' to the gallery space, which re-positioned the relationships between viewer, the gallery and the artwork. The work was hung away from the walllong strips of calico which moved slightly with air currents, and on which were painted columns and emblems from an idyllic age but which were in fact copied from local funerary monuments. Prideaux's work was suffused with the ironies of illusory realities and of desire.

The impact of process on meaning was central to the installation. The works were on calico rather than canvas, they were unframed, and the artist allowed references to what has been seen as folkart (the quilt, the amateur theatre production), to intersect with transplanted and ironically rearranged high-art icons of British Imperialist culture. The dysfunctional mechanisms through which orthodoxy is disseminated allow the recipient to see through the process.

The traditional scientific use of the grid (such as a quadrant) to sample an area or a population was referenced in Prideaux's grid patterns which underlay the colonial neoclassical motifs of immortelles and urns. What was brought into question was the segmenting and re-contextualising of time, place, or information and the subsequent extension of these fragments into universal readings and truths. The notion of extension was reiterated in the positioning of the columns on the fabric, and the continuation of the work onto the gallery floor.

Anne Lord's installation constituted a questioning of perceived relationships of origin and place, a re-negotiation and re-positioning of the art image and of the 'artist'. Reflexively, the installation was based on the materials and processes used in earlier wood engravings and the artist's concerns are implicit in the objects chosen and in their treatment. Issues of control, of potential, of self-determination and of history were explored in relation to representation.

Situated on the floor and two walls, at first glance the work had a linear, calligraphic effect. One piece was a branch of Snappy Gum, which appeared to be 'flung' against the wall. Sliced laterally, the sections had been reconstituted, indicating their original relationships in the parent branch. On the wall adjacent, the blocks chosen were placed lower than eye-level-a position which made them difficult to read. Secretive of potential images, they were black-inked and blank, resistant to the artist and the viewer.

The displacement of the large natural log of Snappy Gum contrasted with small worked printing blocks which ran in opposition to the log on the black cross painted below. The geometric cross, a foil to the natural lines of the logs, was echoed in the regular alignment of the smaller blocks. Other interrelationships emerged in the specific readings of images and of their relation ships within the formation.

In a more direct and disclosing sense, the 'bundles' made by Barbara Pierce consisted of symbolic items of contrast, which were both concealed and revealed in the process of making the bundles: a pair of black women's shoes indicated mourning; a whistle for danger; a lion for courage. In this work the artist was concerned with the wastage of natural resources, with human relationships, positions of power and life cycles. The use of personal narrative and the interweaving of an accessible order of symbols encouraged the curious viewer to reinterpret Pierce's references, to weave his or her own narrative.

Intuition and instinct are significant in Kim Mahood's working process. Her dioramic installation in dis/Place used personal experience to illuminate the scene of The Bush. A sense of poverty and melancholy was pervasive in this work: a rickety fence and tower belied the strength of their materials and the figures of horses were desiccated and blinded by their wrappings which reeked of restriction and of healing wounds. There was less sense of death and decay in the horse figure which was constructed from twigs and sticks-the materials, while still very dry, had some organic potential. Additionally, figures of children, one clasping the neck of a seated (or collapsed) horse, and the other carried under the bandages of the white horse, were protagonists acting out a psychic journey.

Mahood described leave-taking, loss and concealment as underlying narratives of her work. The mythology of The Bush, (the wholesome, sustaining sunburnt country), was examined and repositioned and the viewer was challenged to consider existence and survival in an environment which almost precludes any human achievement.