March at Home@735
In the domestic space of Home@735 the temptation to play the art shopping game is particularly acute. It’s a game familiar to most would-be or emerging collectors. Which work here would you take home? Where would it go? At Home@735 you can see your options virtually in situ – works hang in hallways; are displayed in domestic cabinets and on the television in the lounge room. On this occasion there’s even work in the bathroom. The March offering in the domestic ARI is a diverse mix. Directors (and residents) of the space Anthony Bautovich and Madeleine Preston don’t curate thematically; rather the space is a reflection of things that capture Curator Preston’s attention, artists she feels deserving of a platform, those they’ve known a long time and those they’ve just encountered. Conceptually the four artists on show in March have little in common. Their choices of medium are diverse, spanning hardedge painting, collage, sculpture and video. Nevertheless, there is a dynamic conversation going on between them.
The question of which work to “buy” is a pleasingly tricky one. I first encounter Louise Tuckwell’s skilfully executed hardedge abstraction paintings; luminous in a bright palette of neons paired with 70s browns and oranges and so crisp they almost crackle. These works are typical of Tuckwell, the most senior artist in the show, who over many years has experimented with her evocative multi-panelled abstract shapes. In the upstairs corridors, spaces that demands an unusually close engagement with the works, is a series of sculptures by Esther Neate. In this instance the intimate encounter is a pleasant one. The monochromatic porcelain sculptures and bottles evoke a natural world scorched by fire, all charcoal and burn and fragility. As in Tuckwell’s paintings, there is a powerful lure of the surface at play in the works, which are at once foreign and familiar; ethereal and earthy. Unlike Tuckwell’s work, however, Neate’s material-driven approach affords us glimpses into process, deterioration and traces built up over time. Lining the remaining space around the entry and corridors are Liz Peniazeva’s collages, which manage to avoid the common pitfalls of that medium to be intriguing, playful and clever. Taking images imbued with domesticity and femininity and juxtaposing them with her unique visual vernacular, Peniaveza develops a complex and speculative reading of sexuality and gender.
The work of each of these artists is aesthetically appealing, well-executed and evocative, albeit in different ways and through different mediums. As is often the case, however, the works that stand out and most stick in the mind are precisely those that would be hard to live with. In this case it’s two video works from Dominic Byrne, who first came to Preston’s attention in the National Art School grad show last year. The works communicate a tight, claustrophobic and airless relationship with the world around us. The first, playing on the television in the living room, shows Byrne in a nondescript office-like space. Hunched over in the corner, he struggles to pull himself upright, hindered by wheels attached to his hands and feet. Digitally overlaid on his figure is a rough cartoonish shape in a brownish fake wood pattern, providing a super-flat banality to the Sisyphean struggle taking place onscreen. The whole television unit is encased in a cardboard shell, painstakingly hand-painted in the same fake wood patina. The effect as a whole is uncanny; an intense focus on the surface and flatness under-laid by Byrne’s painful and futile action.
The second work is in the bathroom; its soundtrack can be heard throughout the terrace. It’s a hard-to-pinpoint sound; an uncomfortable one. Its source is U Caught Me Smilin (heavy breathing), a three-channel video work displayed across a projection and television. The noise emits from one of the projection channels, which depicts sand pouring out of a bag and onto (we presume) Byrne’s face, which is covered with a cloth sack. It’s an extremely disturbing image that evokes torture and the abject anonymity with which it is perpetrated. It’s hard to watch without feel complicit in the act. Next to this in the shower cubicle is the third channel of the work, a seemingly static image of a bucket. It’s unsettling for its refusal to give over its intention; the lonely bucket seems to flicker between the screen and real life as though waiting for the shower to drip, which would of course both provide it with a purpose and destroy the television that affords its presence. As a whole, the show bears revisiting, as complex conversations between artists, mediums, surfaces, colours and themes unfold in the intimate space.
– Kate Britton