One of the great things about life is that nothing is certain, nothing remains the same, which brings me to the recent MFA July Seminar and the opportunity to reconfigure and rethink how our work might operate in another location and in relation/context to other works of differing mediums and ideas. Who are your people.
During the July seminar we had two opportunities to exhibit, first, individually as if an own show and then collectively as a group show, the best of.
In summary, in the former, each student is assigned a space in which to exhibit current work for assessment, the MFA faculty do their best but for me it’s not until I physically arrive to see the space that I can begin to really consider how I might hang the work. This is generally done in the St Georges Bay Road studios, a large cavernous warehouse which while open plan is usually sectioned off into smaller studio areas.
A lot can change between the studio and the exhibition space, work that looked like it was operating in the studio can look dull and out of place in the exhibition space and vice versa. Case in point, while I brought six paintings I only showed five, the sixth work really looked sub-standard once I removed it from the studio, and although I had an idea that might be the case, I wanted to test this theory by bringing it along anyway and testing it in situ.
This process of editing can be challenging, I find that as I make work and take it out into the ‘world’ if you like, I am starting to develop a better eye for editing out what is not working. And for me, I need to go through a process of making, taking work and then editing what will become the final install, this experience of doing helps me develop a more successful editing process.
At the moment it is more about what isn’t working, but I can see further down the track where work might be edited out not because they are ‘bad’ works but because they don’t add to the overall effect of the install, that sounds a bit like ‘this goes with that’ strategy but it is far more complicated than that, sometimes its about because it doesn’t go with that, that it might work. I’m always looking for that edge, that push and pull between the conventional and the unconventional, light and dark, warm or cool, saturated or dull, juxtapositions if you like.
For this particular install it might at first appear to be a more conventional hang for the paintings, evenly (not quite in this case) spaced and hung at the prescribed 1.5 metres height. My thoughts around this hang centered mainly on providing a ‘journey’ for the viewer although a really observant person may have noticed and wondered at the slightly uneven spacing/pacing, this strategy may have been a bit too subtle perhaps.
The idea though was carefully thought of as emphasising the way the bands in the paintings intersected leaving areas of unpainted canvas exposed and painted layers with varying levels of transparency creating new shapes and forms. In the exhibition space the works were placed slightly off centre to create unexpected negative wall space, uneven distances to the corners and each other, trying to find ways to bend the exhibition space to the work as opposed to the work to the exhibition space.
Thinking about how overtime the white space of the gallery has increasingly dominated the way we look at painting, and reinforced it’s status as passive in the face of such an assertive architectural power, brings to mind the artist Simon Morris and his wall drawings. Looking to redress the dominance of the gallery, Morris’s wall drawings meander down corridors and up stairs, disappearing around corners and drawing the whole building into a dynamic dance. This was perhaps in the back of my mind when it came to arranging the works, a prod or a toe dipped into the idea of pushing back at the conventional dominance of galleries but in such a way as to assert the works right to be there in that space.
Other factors that can make a difference to the work are environmental factors, at a glance the work comes across as quite robust, hard edged and minimalist with limited formal elements and palette and it is not until you get closer to the work that a certain delicacy can be seen, these works in particular need a lot of light, natural and/or manmade. Some people commented on how the light falling on Tipping Point made the layers look very transparent an effect that appeared less so on the other painting’s, however in reality there just wasn’t the light to reveal the true effect of the thin layers of paint on the other paintings.
This is where getting another chance to re-configure the work in a different space can be rewarding in seeing the work with new eyes, what other works might enhance and/or start a new dialogue about how they operate on their own differently and how/if this changes when seen in context with other art works.
So from the beginning I had in my mind an idea to take 1-3 of the mid-size paintings, I wanted to try grouping them to see if they might open up a new conversation about how they might operate together and with others. In the original install I had them spaced far apart so for Demo I wanted to bring them closer, though they are individual works they were made in the same burst of energy and I wanted to see if they might connect in some way, and how this reconfiguration might enter into dialogue with other works or not.
Helen Johnson, the visiting artist and I narrowed down the works from three to two, choosing Tipping Point and Zone, the two we agreed were the strongest and which somehow talked to each other. At this point I wanted to try out the works together in DEMO before making any decisions regarding the hang, portrait yes but I could see that putting these two together might mean I would need to change which way up they might go.
Back in March I wrote a small post about Kazimir Malevich and his painting, Supremus #58 , how there is no right way up or down, orientation is fluid and therefore is not held to the same gravitational rules of other art works. To make these two paintings work together required an upending of Zone, which I think makes a new work, not a diptych in the conventional sense but a butting together of opposing works that link together in unusual ways. A juxtaposition in the most blatant way, Zone, is dark and edgy moving away from the centre of the picture plane and Tipping Point opens the picture plane by revealing a way into the work through a small isometric triangle. Well that was my thoughts in hindsight, however they operated I thought to a certain extent this pairing was highly successful and a great spring board for the next series of work.
Finally, the July seminar has opened some new areas of enquiry for me, attending to a deeper understanding of colour values and tones, grouping together works that open new conversations together and developing unconventional installation strategies that make use of the walls, floors and ceiling as well as playing with light and dark areas to enhance the work.