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Featuring the work of eleven young artists Presence marked the disappearance of Process Gallery from the Brisbane art scene. An artist run space specialising in experimental contemporary art, Process was in operation for less than a year. Curated by Paul Wrigley, Presence dealt broadly with the physicality of sculpture and the relationship between viewer and art object.
The artists included Shawn Ashkenasay, Ann-Louise Buck, Adam Donovan, Jane Gallagher, Annette Hale, John Harris, Wanita Jones, Belinda Parslow, Colin Reaney, Charles Robb and Daniel Templeman. The exhibition was accompanied by a curious, poetic statement from Chris Davey and a brief text from Niko Vuletic.
The curatorial 'theme' of Presence allowed for a great deal of scope and, not suprisingly, the artistic responses were varied. From Charles Robb's critique of the presence of art in the marketplace to Jane Gallagher's nail polish crosses titled presents, a number of works in the show were based on a witty utilisation of everyday items. While Vuletic introduced issues of subjectivity and objectivity in engaging with sculpture, the artworks themselves seemed less concerned with relationships of space and form than with issues of identity, (dis)functionality and social satire.
Ann-Louise Buck hung a series of rings from lengths of string, which were placed at various points in the gallery. These rings were attributed to their owners, and the retrieval of one ring after the opening night illustrated the personal attachment associated with items of jewellery. The very absence of this one ring from the series in the gallery forced the viewer to construct an imaginary life for it, thereby asserting a presence more firmly than if it was actually there. Shawn Ashkenasay's installation Memory of My Country directly dealt with issues of place and the construction of identity associated with land and home. Eight painted rocks were displayed in kitsch, wood-veneer cabinets, with mirrors reflecting the rocks back onto themselves.
A stylish plaster 'painting' by Charles Robb, titled Total Quality, consisted of segments joined in a leggo-like fashion, each stamped with the quality-endorsed logo typically found on white goods. Described by the artist as a statement against the marketability of a certain kind of decorative art, the work resisted the lure of user friendliness. A critique of the consumerist impulse could also have been read into a trolley sculpture by Colin Reaney. This work was appealing in its purpose built functionality. In a sense, it existed for the surrounding artworks, making it a perfect inclusion in a show centred around 'presence'.
The all pervasiveness of advertising in our culture is often the subject of scrutiny in contemporary art. Whereas artists like the Cuban Felix Gonzalez-Torres aimed to put art into the space occupied by brash advertising, and were concerned with the thoughtful provocation of social conscience, Belinda Parslow's work titled Billboard was given domestic connotations in the space of the gallery. The work consisted of a mass of blue sequins perched on long pins; a glittering, glamorous flag with no sign of a slogan.
At first glance an arrangement of white thumb tacks, on the end wall of the gallery, was barely visible. The shiny tacks of Poly Monochrome were arranged in rows of circles, copying the raised dot pattern found on the side of polystyrene boxes. In making this work, Annette Hale took as inspiration a most insignificant detail of the box and turned it into a delicate sequence, almost resembling braille. People said to have 'presence' often have an indescribable kind of dignity. Their aura quietly reveals itself to you, not unlike the thumb tacks at the back of the room.