Dialogue

Yuki Horiki and Claudine Marzik
Cairns Regional Gallery

The artworks in Dialogue pervaded the gallery with harmonious and silent 'conversation'. Ceramic forms found counterparts in abstracted shapes on canvas, colours complemented, interaction was serene. Too serene? Did the easy grace of this show become problematic?

Yuki Horiki and Claudine Marzik's new works were explicit in their 'mutual admiration', and if such a foundation were the only rationale for these artists exhibiting together, the effect would have been too cloying, too aesthetically coordinated. Fortunately, many of Marzik's acrylic paintings on canvas (all untitled) militated against this threat and made clear statements in her own language of abstraction. The reverse also applies: Horiki's sculptured ceramic vessels were mostly singular quirky objects that could live in isolation.

Horiki is also a painter and her previous exhibition, Life Vessel, 1997, at Cairns Regional Gallery, combined figurative imagery with her first ceramic explorations. She proved to be an ingenue of three-dimensions with her particularly inventive vases. New works in Dialogue were more austere, and their minimal colour allowed purity of form to dominate. Groupings of creamy, single-stem cylinders, in threes and fives, themselves called Dialogue, were sculptures but also worked as graphic vertical sketches in clay, like maquettes. Vicissitudes were twenty arum lily shapes (or wall -vases not for flowers) and likewise were effective as a group.

Horiki's pieces were few, a seemingly calculated choice since their simplicity of form proclaimed 'less is more'. Her four burnished Ha Za Ma vessels were large sensual bellies with the lips of jugs. The most accomplished of all her pieces, Cloud Vessel, was aptly named with its subtle scalloped opening.

A group of eight untitled paintings by Marzik were toned in the same soft cream of Cloud Vessel, with vertical grey linear bands overlaid. Suggestions of vegetative or vessel forms brought shape and volume to some of her paintings, otherwise Marzik's concern in these works was with the delicacy of surface, achieved through stripping back and adding many layers of etiolated colour to create soft glazed veils which sometimes were then scraped with linear incisions. Marzik's paintings also worked well in groupings. Either in a triptych, diptych or a block, subtleties that may have been too insubstantial in a single work were reinforced. These paintings gained by their placement near each other.

To examine why certain pared-down forms read as 'Japanese' is to enquire into the stylistic tendencies arising from centuries of visual refinement in a culture suffused with Tao, Shinto and Zen sensibilities (among others). My unscholarly western eyes might characterise the stereotypical qualities of Japanese objects as being linear, austere, elegant and rather monochromatic: there also is the awareness that objects are judiciously selected to present an harmonious whole.

In addressing this tendency to lapse into a 'Japanese reading' of the works in Dialogue, I discovered a fundamental empathy with the artists' quest for simplicity and fascination with the empty moment. Marzik and Horiki are clearly comfortable fusing modernist and Japanese aesthetics without the need for words to explain how they relate to these traditions (English is not the first language of either artist, in any case).

With this exhibition, both Horiki and Marzik have taken a step in their practice toward clarity, harmony and revealing the essential. The metaphysical implication here is a long term one, an evolving state of coming into being. The distraction of elegant placement and coordinated colours can be the mere seduction of interior design, whilst the true language of emptiness, is another dimension again.