Scott Redford

To have and have not (7066 A.D.)
Bellas Gallery, Brisbane

Scott Redford reworks Modernism. As a regional artist isolated from that movement's historical centre, he employs an aesthetic vocabulary informed by a variety of sources, including Abstract Expressionism, Hard Edge Abstraction, Minimalism and Pop. Unlike that of many postmodern artists, his work does not use irony to debunk modernism's grand aims; detournement holds no attraction for him. Rather, his work involves a subtle, almost reverential, tactic of 'revisionism '. This revisionism might be characterized as the artist's teasing out a queer reading of modernism, and his invitation for us to do the same. Redford is cannily aware that it is our experience of meaning, as the relationship between an artist's identity and the work itself, that makes this revisionist tactic possible; it is Redford's identity as a gay man that permits us to read the work as queer.

The power of this revisionist logic becomes evident upon viewing the works in To Have and Have Not (7066 A.D.). The expressionistic Flags for Straight Boys is read as a critique of macho culture with its references to violence, flags and Fourex beer. We analyse the backwards text us 'inverting' straight culture and read Redford's use of over-pasting as a metaphor for revisionism itself. Lasercut slogans taken from popular surf clothing and rendered in swanky silver enamel, signpost the theme of gay beach culture in To You I Bestow (Partial Eclipse) and The World Only Spins Forward (7066 A.D.), while the abstract work Above the Elbow on the Guy's Arm at the Wickham (Third Version) is read, plausibly, in terms of a history of gay repression culminating in the disaster of AIDS. From the pastel colours of baby-blue and girly-pink used in earlier work, to an object's resemblance to sick bags, it becomes apparent very quickly that within this logic there is nothing that is not potentially queer.

None of this is new to Redford's work, but the prevailing atmosphere has now become one of austerity, sobriety and subtlety. Melancholia has been distilled to produce the effect of a memorial. How fitting then that the first piece experienced upon entering the Gallery should be a shrine to Kurt Cobain, complete with its own momento mori. The show's undercurrent of death and loss is borne out in the works. This occurs most obviously through references to disease and the use of blood red, but it also occurs more subtly through an evocation of childhood and uncanny future dates, and a reference to snapshot photography. A formal insistence on ideas of eclipse and obscuration, and the ephemeral nature of the temporary work Untitled (Printed Matter) also reinforce this mood.

This exhibition is not only a personal mourning, but also is a contemplation of the very limits of this kind of art. As Redford's works themselves demonstrate, there is no end to what objects, qualities or notions may be annexed to the revisionist cause. The work Untitled (the reed acrylic mixed with AZT) itself questions the fact that homosexuality can be reduced to a trope in this way. Its 'queer value' resides in a parenthetical aside in the title- a (perhaps false) claim by the artist that the paint contains the anti –AIDS drug AZT. 11 asks us: what is the future of queer art? Because the ultimate move in this revisionist endgame would indeed collapse the distinction between gay and straight art. The entire history of art would then be read as gay. Or, on the other side of the coin (which is really just the same side), the whole notion of homosexuality would cease to exist. Like a magician's piece de resistance, queer art's final triumph ensures its own vanishing.