gleam

james dodd, peter harding, yoko kojio, tim sterling, kate stryker
Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide
5 - 28 October 2000

In '80s skateboarder-speak, 'gleaming the cube' translates roughly to 'reaching the ultimate', implying a youthful recklessness in search of an absolute, incomparable experience. The work in Gleam, a show of new artists at the Experimental Art Foundation, sometimes hints at that sort of experience, but one gets the feeling it is more tongue in cheek than in earnest. The focus here, generally speaking, is unashamedly on surface effect-but there is a suggestion too that this work is not quite giving itself away.

Peter Harding's compelling abstract paintings fill the first half of the gallery. There are over thirty in all, arranged in a number of grid formations. Each features a series of concentric circles, recalling the academic abstraction of Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns. Harding, however, draws these elegant works beyond formalism, pairing them with acerbic titles like Tales from between my legs, The taming of a bi-polar bear and My unconventional constitution (all from The Mind is a Magician series) and taking them into the realm of the personal. The laborious and seemingly obsessive nature of their production suggests some kind of catharsis-the red and black paintings from the series Which of These Best Describes Your Pain?, at once sinister and vulnerable, adding weight to this interpretation. But on another level, their roughly LP size, and their playful fashion-conscious colour sense lends them a retro coolness and appeal that is purely decorative with another nod to pop.

James Dodd's billboard scaled Untitled wall painting is a red silhouette of a sneaker, painted, as its title suggests, directly on the wall of the gallery. The work deals with all the old issues of painting scale, colour, dynamism-but in a hip, slick, with-it guise. 11 references both graffiti and murals, but it also is almost like a piece of advertising-cool, disengaged and vacuous. As an emblem of youth culture, it is a parody and tribute all at once. Maybe it is a critique of consumerist culture as well, or maybe it just rides the wave-hard to say in this P.Ost-ironic world.

The tone changes at the rear of the gallery, blocked off for Yoko Kajio's installation Deltitnu 0-1. Here a video projection aimed across the corner of the space displays indecipherable images reduced to a hallucinatory diffusion of monochromatic blues and greens. Next to this, a mound of transparent plastic ribbon (like a grungy Mario Merz igloo) is illuminated from beneath. While the two elements are not discordant, neither is their connection easily discernible, and it is difficult to tell exactly what Kajio's work is about-the illuminated plastic thread suggests some neural or technological reference, but it might all just be for visual effect. Enigmatic and immersive, the installation evokes a trippy, performative experience.

Nearby, Kale Stryker echoes this effect with Neonism, a synchronised slide show of blurred neon signage against dark night skies. The slides for this work were taken with a technique as basic as an open shutter and a rapid, random movement of the camera. But these lyrical works seem more than happy accidents. Stryker's skill in framing these shots, and isolating and combining colour within them, belies their unsophisticated means of production. Obscuring the banality of the signs by rendering their language unreadable, Stryker celebrates and manipulates the immediacy of the neon-the effect is of abstract expressionism, without the heavy-handedness.

Tim Sterling's Bomb, on the floor in the centre of the gallery, while equally playful, appears the least immediately visual of the works in the exhibition. From craft wood Sterling has cut line drawings of a range of objects and arranged them in a tangle of limbs set on a plinth of audio cassettes. The basis for these objects, as with all Sterling's works, is an undisclosed system of 'language based' rules, which he claims are arbitrary. He presents a puzzle with this obscure codification, but the sense of play here borders on a struggle, where the game refuses to reveal or explain itself. The birds tugging at a worm are a funny and vivid motif, but suggest tension and an unseen connection-the worm winding invisibly through the sculpture from one end to the other. This work's strange intricacies promise hidden depths where the other works pointedly flaunt their 'surface', reveling in the immediacy of sensation and the glow of pop culture.