Expand and Collapse

‘Where are you, can you hear me?’
Ann-Maree Reaney, Mona Ryder, Victoria Boulter-Groening
Horus and Deloris
Sydney 16 – 30 July 2008

The work of Ann-Maree Reaney and Mona Ryder at Horus and Deloris was indicative of what happens when forms undergo expansion, or a collapse.

Reaney’s self-confident geometric forms were posed in three positions around the room, with a sense of presence, as if they had just appeared. In the way that polyurethane foam leaps out of a spray can and suddenly becomes form, they just seemed to have materialised out of nothingness. The first, in line of sight of the entrance, was a giant, matt black, flat-sided torus propped on its side like a cartoon tyre about to roll away out of the scene. Beyond that, a flat circular disc, slickly painted in a dichromic orange/purple, occupied a wall like a harvest moon beaming down. A dipped area in the centre of this shiny solid form echoed the empty centre of the torus, while quietly mocking the latter’s incompleteness, the nothingness of its hole-in-the-middle. Opposite and therefore out of first sight was an orange wedge, a floor work pressed into a corner. It shared its colour with one colour of the dichromic disc, and shared its particulate rubberised texture with the tyre, so that its between-two-worlds, between-two-walls stance resulted in a split alliance with both of the rounded things in the room.

The dialogue between these three forms was offset by a text-based work in the window, a domestic Venetian blind, perforated to spell the phrase ‘I want to communicate with you’. The reference here was to semaphores, as well as the way Venetian blinds can be quickly flipped open and shut to simulate Morse code. As a window acts as a visually permeable membrane between a building and the world outside, this work acted as the speaking voice in a room of mutely posed forms, both in its use of text and its semaphoric reference. What do primary forms—a wedge, a disc, a flat-sided doughnut—say to us, or to each other?

Meanwhile, in the opposite end of the gallery, Ryder’s floppy vinyl forms hovered mysteriously, folding into themselves, dangling like jetsam caught mid-flotation after an intergalactic explosion in an upholsterer’s shop. Oldenburgian in their hilarity, but without delivering instant recognition that they derived from the upholstery pattern for an armchair, the gloss lipstick-red slipcovers were also Warholian in their reference to glamour, including the tragically short life of the media star. Shadows drawn directly on the concrete beneath were reminiscent of the offset layering of Warhol’s silkscreen portraits, where the shadow slips astride of where it belongs; plastic tubes emanating out of the deflated forms suggested an IV hook-up during a detox or rehabilitation program, a vain attempt at reinvigoration. Displaced and deflated, these collapsed, floating forms were partly punch-bag, and partly the chair one flops into every night for a dose of bad news on telly.

Both of these artists engage with forms that expand and collapse, a sort of reflection on the forms that fill our homes, our workplaces, our daily lives. Reaney’s works seem to appear out of emptiness fully formed, like when someone says ‘a perfect circle’ and you see one in your mind. They expand out of nothing to appear there, almost as a fully formed concept, a kind of Kantian thing-in-itself. Ryder’s forms, undulating and complex, indicate the opposite, how things collapse after an explosion, how they distort, deflate, become things-gone-wrong, like when you say something and are totally and utterly misunderstood by an elderly relative—you feel they should understand you as they once did, but are forced to accept that the spark of comprehension misfires. Both artists produce meticulously made works, carefully placed for maximum effect, and whether driven by ultimate beauty or suburban parody, the result is a concept-rich cousin of high formalism, a concern with colour, texture, mass, and volume, what was once described by writers such as William Tucker as the ‘language’ of sculpture.

One wonders what private dialogue may occur between the forms of Reaney and Ryder. Much in the same way that Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, in their 2007 Münster Sculpture Project work Dance Queens, imagined an animated party with iconic twentieth-century sculptures squabbling and getting into party mode after the museum’s closure for the night (among them, the work of Barbara Hepworth, Sol LeWitt and Jeff Koons), one can imagine these forms getting up to some fun after dark. As is said of such pairings—opposites attract.

notes: 

Author’s note: this exhibition also included the work of Victoria Boulter-Groening. However, it was not available for viewing at time of writing.