Friday, 25 May 2018

Jenny Pollak

13 May - 16 June      Dictionary of Love and Loss

Link to artist's website

Jenny Pollak. Dictionary of Love and Loss, 2018. On view at 38 Botany Road, Waterloo.


Jenny Pollak’s work, Dictionary of Love and Loss is about language. The Dharug language of the indigenous inhabitants of the Sydney basin, which includes the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River where Jenny lives.

Chillingly, the absence of that language along the banks of the Hawkesbury recalls Kate Grenville’s colonial history, The Secret River and the TV series of the same name that documents the xenophobic slaughter of the Dharug speakers.

Those people live in a way in the bones scattered across Pollak’s chairs each marked in language as a family group, mother, father, daughter, son. They live as a lament in a world that progresses inexorably towards a utopian global homogenization.

The uniformity of material satisfaction comes with it’s own xenophobia that silences the other as effectively as the Dharug speakers were slaughtered two centuries ago. Our bones might be added to Pollak’s chairs and shrouded there in a mist of language that speaks only of this place, Dharug.

Language is the tool of colonization. It’s the open door into our brains where the work of ours soon to be masters is completed. But while Dharug survives, and we are thinking of it now and in defiance perhaps, it permits a love of our land.

Tony Twigg

At the mouth of the Hawkesbury river, north of Sydney, lies a body of water called Broken Bay. Although I have often wondered what this bay was called by the original inhabitants of this country I think the name well reflects the violent history that took place following the invasion of these lands by the British in 1788.

The four chairs in this installation represent a family unit: mother  father  daughter  son:   enale  enalgun  beung  niae
Images of bones superimposed on the front of the chairs are superimposed with the very first map of the area to be made by the British after the arrival of the First Fleet and are a metaphor for connection to place. 

The words that form a screen between the viewer and the chairs are from a word list of the language spoken by the original custodians and inhabitants of this land.

Jenny Pollak

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Sally Clarke

link to artist's website

8 April - 12 May       The Wonder Quilt, 1998-2018

Sally Clarke with assistance from Lesley Clarke, Brenda Factor, Frances Factor and Trudi Factor, The Wonder Quilt, 1998-2018, Wonder Cloths (for domestic cleaning),150 x 200cm.

Sally Clarke’s “Wonder Quilt” could be part of a small but concise exhibition currently on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Three works from the 1970’s and 80’s, each made in a technique usually associated with women’s craft. Ewa Pachucka a Polish artist then living in Sydney crocheted a vast sculptural installation, a Melbourne artist Elizabeth Gower contributed a wall sculpture sewn from diaphanous fabric while the American Miriam Schapiro’s work is a collage of appliqued fabrics. Each work, like Sally’s has one foot in the male orientated tradition of fine art and another in the home spun female craft of sewing and each stakes a claim for the Feminist with in our understanding of art.

In a satiric manner Sally evokes a further analogy with “women’s work” by choosing a domestic cleaning product “Wonder Cloths” as her quilting medium. She further challenges the masculine concept of the author, the so-called auteur by working from within a collective of collaborating artists - Lesley Clarke, Brenda Factor, Frances Factor and Trudi Factor.

This is not a heroic expression of individuality that proposes an alternate reality. It is a subversive conversation that seeks to alter and succeeds in altering our collective understanding of reality. It is the project of Feminism.

- Tony Twigg

Sally Clarke with assistance from Lesley Clarke, Brenda Factor, Frances Factor and Trudi Factor, The Wonder Quilt, 1998-2018, Wonder Cloths (for domestic cleaning), 150 x 200cm.  The wonder quilt exists as both a domestic quilt and geometric painting. Its underlying grid structure is shared by decorative patterning and high modernism. As an organising structure for painting the grid goes back at least to the Renaissance period; as an organising structure for pattern it has existed for thousands of years. Many machines and hands have contributed to the Wonder Quilt. The Wonder Cloths - synthetic and lurid - were manufactured in Taiwan before they travelled the high seas to their distribution point in Sydney. The quilt was made with assistance from a small collective of women family members in my lounge room, an antidote to the model of the lone, tormented genius artist. The quilt was revised in 2018.

About Sally Clarke
Informed by a background in both social sciences and visual arts, Sally Clarke's practice critiques the hierarchical and, in particular, gendered constructions of space and the way spaces, materials, and bodies become defined from one another through the attribution of visual, social and cultural codes. Clarke engages with the way power, and the desire for it, drives such divisions and how this plays out in artistic representations and the cultural contexts from which they emerge. Her works explore how these types of relationships can be re-imagined.

Much of Clarke's work has been preoccupied with material and visual significations of domestic space and all that entails. She explores how low-status materials, forms and representations can take their position among very public and dominant discourses including high modernism, the master narratives of landscape painting and contemporary conceptual art through media such as paint, plasticine and floor vinyl and formats that range from two-dimensional surfaces to installation.

Clarke completed her PhD in Philosophy (Fine Arts) in 2008 and, after fourteen years of working as an academic at the College of Fine Arts UNSW, Sydney, established AirSpace Projects with artist and designer Brenda Factor in 2014. AirSpace Projects formed part of her artistic project until 2017 when it transitioned into its new life as a not-for-profit association. 

- Sally Clarke

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Adam Laerkesen

link to artist's website

11 March - 7 April       My Song is not Your Song


Adam Laerkesen. My Song is not Your Song. 2017. Wood bull head, anchor rope, painting on wood.

Adam is a northern European, born in New Zealand who arrived in Sydney, as a 15 year old via the Gold Coast, but that probably isn’t why his song is not your song.

Drawing, 9 hours a week of it was the basic training he received while studying sculpture at the National Art School. According to Adam it’s “a method of honing the eye”.  After a stint at the Sydney College of Art it was still there when his education gave way to the need for making. And it’s here. This is a drawing.

Adam Laerkesen. My Song is not Your Song. 2017.
Hearing Adam talk about his work is like listening to a detailed discussion about the function of drawing: “always about taking inanimate forms and animating them”; “try not to make it about the self, to make it about the other”; “keep it open ended”; “suspend logic as a way of holding the viewer to the work”.

We must look and look again at this precariously attractive image that is drawn from intuition.  There is no plan here. History is little more than a license to practice assemblage. Intuition for Adam is filtered through daydreams. He describes states of mind at the edge of sleep, when in tiredness dreams flash across our eyes and the space between waking and the assertion of consciousness. “It mirrors the narrative of found objects, which have lost their function and are in the process of finding a new one.”

A key to the work is the yellow painting in the top left had corner.  Visually it’s a crucial element that Adam says was painted by his son, playfully in his studio somewhere in the past. For Adam, it offers fatherhood as a premise for the work, “the camel trying to pass through the needle's eye” as Adam comments in a fractured metaphor that draws the melancholy on a quest for innocence.

Tony Twigg