Maggie Thompson

Diversions—Games we play
Metro Arts, Brisbane

There is something drastic about looking at the past year's collection of works on paper, deciding to take the scissors to them and cutting them up. Something brave and positive, something blackly humorous. Diversions-Games We Play is an exhibition of collages assembled from a year's worth of work (mainly sketches from life-drawing classes) and from found objects from games-jigsaws, scrabble, crosswords, playing cards, chess, lotto tickets and so on. Maggie Thompson has 'recycled' her life-drawings and, breaking out of the fine art paradigm, has re-situated them into social environments of roles and rules.

This is, in a sense, a critique of the life-drawing class and the role of 'the model' which isolates and aestheticises the human figure and is complicit in creating the centralised anthropocentric discourses of Western Culture. Thompson has cut out the figures from her drawing studies and con textualised them, with humour, in broader social situations. In so doing she repudiates traditional notions of the study, the preliminary sketch and the final composition. Process and product are not separated.

The popular analogues Thompson uses to symbolise the social environment are games. In overlaying the figures with the abstracted grids of letters, boards and playing cards, light hearted allusions are made to notions of chance and adaptation, supported by the use of puns, alliteration, anagrams and double meanings in the works and their titles. Thompson has also cut strips of 'background' from her works and these are overlaid in intersecting lines across the compositions. They have a strangely dual effect, implying both two-dimensional framing and three-dimensional perspective.

The majority of figures in Thompson's imagery are women and this directly reflects the predominance of female models in her life-drawing classes. Nevertheless, Thompson's dominant use of women is integral to her practice. Male figures are set apart compositionally-either isolated or obscured. The female figures are woven into the patterning process of collage, allowing some to stand out in sharp outline and others to become part of the image fabric.

This veiling and layering aesthetic is linked to a feminine sensibility. Women, marginalised from mainstream discourses and from the overt exercise of power have learnt to exist 'in between' places and to wield power covertly. Veiling and layering is suggestive of seduction, and the use of anagrams and double meanings suggest a subtext, a feminine manipulation of language.

The Jig is a collage of life drawings of female nudes and jigsaw pieces, both cut-out and actual. The collaging process has veiled the nakedness of the women. The isolated and objectified female nude has been veiled with a web of connectedness that is both subjective (acting as clothing) and social (referring to a game--jigsaw puzzles).

As well as hung works (fourteen large and ten smaller works), Thompson created four small artist books entitled Game Bits. They consisted, once again, of cut-out squares from her pastel and acrylic works on paper. Cut from sketch books which had works on both sides of the page, each "game bit" was a two-sided square of abstract colouration. This puns, light heartedly, on the action paintings of Pollock and their determined illusions of accident.

In cutting-up, collaging and 'recycling' her works, Thompson breaks down generic boundaries of art practice. In contextualising the figure within ritual social games she suggests that this wider context is perhaps no less rule-ridden and generically bound.