Scott Whitaker

The Butterfactory, Dayboro

One gains a tacit understanding of the 'continuing process' within Scott Whitaker's work – a sense whereby size, shape, structure and scale unfold. The work presents its audience with a complete panoply of formal relationships. The interdependence of Whitaker's paintings and sculptures flow from the archival collection of forms that serve as the source material for his productions. These forms by themselves are decidedly ordinary. Collected from an aged rubbish heap they are the debris of a Second World War American base, yet paradoxically, they are the most domestic of items – teapots, saucepans, enamel jugs, etcetera. In their domesticity the forms conjure an intrinsic interiority, they speak of something personal and hidden, and in a sense this feeling is never quite displaced – not even when these forms are transcribed into monumental proportions.

It is the constant repetition of the shapes of these objects throughout Whitaker's work which gives it this serial presence. The work always attempts to investigate and re-apply ever new, though ultimately repetitious configurations of the same forms. The formal attractions of this work are obvious and undisguised. The shapes, simplified to their most basic elements, have a ubiquitous quality. One of the most dominant of the forms within this exhibition was the large urn and a number of the canvases, as well as the sculptures, mirrored this vessel. This lineament is the progeny of the archaeological features which Whitaker is at pains to extend in his work. The urn reaches back to the symmetry of the Greek but without its sense of smooth perfection; its empty rhetoric. Within this concept of the classical we find Whitaker consciously imitating the archaeological process. In the excavation and reification of his source material one becomes aware of the many broken shards taken from so many sites and that no matter how carefully they are reassembled they will always belong to a fragmentary code. A mental trace memory that can never be recaptured only momentarily glimpsed.

This idea concerning the fractional nature of the work is codified through the attention to its surface qualities. Whether in a two dimensional or three dimensional structure the surface of Whitaker's work is one of its most compelling aspects. While the works have a marvellous texturality, a subtle richness that is deliberately constructed, it is but a veil through which to conceal the true extent of the image. This device ensures a contrast, a dynamic tension between the weight of the forms and the waxy depth of the surface. Occasionally the face of the artist appears but it is muted and obscured behind the surface. Little more than a limpid suggestion, a vague reference to yet another source document. This juxtaposition between the shadowy nature of the material and the refraction of the surface is intentional, used to highlight the meditative process of the art making.

In the sculptures such gestures have a more forceful implication. Here the issue is not one of inflection but of transformation – the rusting debris of those curious forms is metamorphosed into a cohesive structural unit. While the sculptures quite naturally exist within a symbiotic relationship to the paintings the alliance is an uneasy one. The ostensibly patriarchal/phallic nature of the sculptures – their towering presence and bizarre appendages – leave them dominating whatever space they occupy. Thus while they are very much a part of the same thematic concerns as their two dimensional counterparts they are in many ways set apart from them. It may be the very act of their assemblage which is responsible for this dichotomy. The process of stratification inherent within assemblage seeks to reduce the forms to their most rudimentary elements allowing the artist to dictate the manner of their representation in a more diverse manner. All reference to the source material is more oblique within Whitaker's sculptures which helps to inaugurate an understanding of the 'work in progress' as opposed to 'work progressed'.

One of the most interesting aspects of Scott Whitaker's work is the attention paid to the art-making process itself. The artist is so intent that we know the strategies, understand the discourse, that underlies the imagery. By asserting an interest in the formal through continual referencing of his own collection of source material – so proudly displayed for our comparison – Whitaker gives his work that serial sensibility. Through this attention we are assured that the thematic concerns are far from resolved and that this is work that is yet to divulge its most complete expression.