Recognitions

Savode Gallery, Brisbane

The rationale behind the show, Recognitions, was, to quote the curator, Daniel Mafe, "an invitation to cognition". The exhibition contained one work from each of the five participating artists, and the deliberately uncluttered placement of the show challenged the viewer to take up the invitation, to carefully read the work, to reflect.

Although there was no particular issue or area of interest that the artists were required to work upon, there were elements in each piece that spoke to or echoed elements in the others. One of these was light. More than light, however, it was the process of separation between lightness and darkness, the 'luminosity' of death and the shadowy darkness of life.

In Merilyn Fairskye's work, Invisible Painting, the portraits on the wall were literally shadows. Executed with paint on a mirrored surface and working with an incandescent light source, Fairskye's technology operated as a figurative anamorphic lens. The greater magnification came not with the projected wall image but in the ability to finely tune an image of memory, or a remembered thought. The almost indefinability of these drawings in no way lessened their power. The elusiveness of existence, of remembering, of pulling an image back into existence were all at work in these projected shadow drawings.

Janet Laurence's painting, Seeming, which was alone in the next room of the gallery, was white with hardedged channels of colour running from top to bottom. Laurence uses language as a foil for the visual components of her work. Here, the title denoted a hesitant recognition while at the same time the construction of the piece very clearly evoked an awareness of the seam. The channels were both seams joining together areas of light and trenches of colour separating an unfathomable luminosity and pulling it back into a hesitant recognition, a seeming. At the base of each channel was a very small pile of powdered pigment. A clue, a reminder of the transformations that continuously occur within the physical.

In Daniel Mate's painting, Screen-Pillar, the interwoven layers of light and dark created a subtle internal movement within the work, leading to an expectation of revelation. That expectation was increased with a very pale presence of pink in the lighter areas of the surface. Perhaps one of the paintings revelations was a dialogue between the cool and the seductive. Between detachment and presence. Between memory and remembering and their relationship to the thing which is memorable.

Placed alongside Daniel Mafe's work were two pieces that rely strongly on association. Jill Barker's work, Unknown Subject, comprised of two enlarged found photographs, shows a young woman in a fifties style dance dress. Barker's use of the icons and imagery of the fifties created a subtext which superficially revealed the period as a time of light pleasure, a time of acceptance of the status quo, of material plenty and acquisition while underneath suggested a growing discomfort with and awareness of anomalies in issues of social justice, particularly in racial and sexual equality.

John Armstrong's work set up then deliberated upon contradictions. In Lewis Carrell's words, 'nothing is as it seems.' Armstrong's found objects, two chairs, a hat, a briefcase, a long pole and a waist-high cupboard were tightly covered with a bright red floral fabric. The title spoke with deadpan humour, Installation with Two Chairs. Here was a piece that really played with the viewer's perceptions. It presented itself as a puzzle that resisted solution. One chair had no seat, and the other one emerged through the solid back of the cupboard. The objects seemed free of the constraints of habit and propriety, each one behaving with scant regard to its place in the ordered universe. With all of their contrariness, these objects worked to subvert their own definitions of freedom. Were they quietly satirical, or in deadly earnest? In this work, perhaps freedom came with a tight rein.

These five works shared a quality of witness to the slow passing of time, of night into day, of transformation processes, of developments in perception and clarity-on both the artists' part and the viewers'. Time taken became part of the mathematical equation of meaning.