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Whispers, lies and text
Everything smells new. The door handle gleams and the polished wooden floor is as flawless as a fresh sheet of ice. CAST has moved from the picturesque gallery on Hunter Street and now occupies slick office space inconspicuously located behind the Hunter Island Design Centre on Tasma Street, North Hobart. Set amongst carparks and the industrial clutter of Hobart's chic cafe dragstrip, the minimalist grey block which CAST now calls home has become the solid foundation for one of Tasmania's leading art corporations.
The first official exhibition to adorn the freshly painted walls was Whispers, Lies and Text. Curated by Mary Knights and inspired by the work of Symbolist poet, Stephane Mallarme, the exhibition explored the use of text in visual art. Here, text was decontextualised and lifted from the page. It was embedded into wood and fabric, moulded with paint and manipulated through video images and slide projections. Text became an emblematic signifier of thought, experience and form.
Every work was a whisper of memory, and experience was documented by fragments of information, the residue of communication. Like the rose that haunted the Symbolists, its scent more disturbingly memorable than the outward beauty of its form, the works penetrated and developed the 'essence' of text as a method of communication and record of memory. Humanity was reduced to discarded notes and invitations in Lee Paterson 's The Golden Wall 1998 and Maria Kunda's Words of Love 1998 and a simple journey was symbolised by the chewed and broken pencils of Pavel Buchler's Six Days 1998. Rather than exhibiting text in the standard literary form of books, the word was constructed as a visual representation of jumbled thoughts and distant memories. A life was callously remembered by Paterson's anonymous yellow post-it notes that bore scrawled messages, 'Hope is a terrible thing ', 'Ran into trouble/Died unnecessarily'. These scraps of information were set on a background of clinical white, the tiny yellow squares became entombed within the frame, vague and stark whispers of a life that once was.
International artist, Claude Closky produces text on screen. In Nice 1997, Closky's random slices of text bombarded the viewer with the seductive lies of media dictatorship as particular words were emblazoned, enlarged and projected like titles onto the gallery wall. Cut from the pages of glossy magazines and newspaper articles various words like, 'Sensational!, Fabulous!, Chic!' flashed upon the wall in a visual mantra of popular culture. Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down 1998, offered a satirical and often comical commentary on what's 'in' and what's 'out'. In the ever changing fashions of today's society words determine behaviour: the fickle superficiality of social trends was blatantly realised here by the random movements of a computerized thumb. If Cowboy's are in, Biker's are out. Closky's flipside thumb even favoured, 'Listening to techno in your bath' over, 'Listening to techno in your car' and 'Happy Day's' over 'The Twilight Zone'.
Richard Grayson emphasised both the form and meaning of text through found notes and documents. Three enlarged portions of old love letters and neatly written doctor's evaluations mutated into line and form and were flushed with colour on Grayson's oversized canvases. In Still Love, Alah and Found Reference 1995, text was overlaid with colour, combining the visual representation of meaning with the implications of the actual text. The personal style of each document combined with Grayson's use of colour accentuated the notion of remembrance and memory as each work became a lost signature of anonymous existence. Similar to Grayson's work was Scored 1997 by Jacqueline Rose. Flowing lines and indentations viciously scratched in charcoal onto paper suggested a primitive form of handwriting. Although Rose's work captured the 'electric' language and style of text without a distinct visual reference to text itself, Scored was a curious yet intellectually challenging inclusion in the exhibition.
Antonin Artaud was honoured in the harsh white canvases and smudged typewritten jargon of Kim Kerze's recent work. Broken sentences and disjointed letters jumbled together in blurred confusion in Frozen Music 1998 only to drop from the work onto a square of beeswax, faded, burnt and dysfunctional.
Janet Lillico's Pillow Book 1998 exploded in a torrent of red velvet and nauseating pink satin. A tactile combination of image and poetry, the sensuality and organic nature of text spewed forth in a visually symphonic orgasm of word and experience. Julie Gough's delicately crafted spears stood tensely balanced on the floor beneath a row of swan's eggs in In the Shadow of the Spear 1998. Thin strips of wood were positioned in the shadow cast by each spear, an historical tale burnt onto the fragile yet lethal weapons. Similar to a form of concrete poetry, Gough's work symbolised the sublime relationship of text and visual art. Seen and read trough the shadows of time, Gough utilised historical text as a transient documentation of forgotten experience.
An intelligent collection of work, these portions of what is left behind formed a body of collective memory, a scrapbook of messages, signs and tangible thoughts. They became the fabric of life. A whisper of what once was.