Andrea Chen, Lynda Draper, Isaac Nixon, Lucienne West, Paul Williams

 By Rebecca Gallo

Perhaps it’s the home gallery context, but there seems to be a thread of domestic materials, relationships and contexts running through Home@735’s first show for 2017.

Paul Williams infuses patterned surfaces with intimacy and nostalgia. He gives depth to the seemingly superficial, evoking a sense of warmth and homeliness through simulated wood veneer and intersecting lines. A check pattern echoes throughout his latest paintings, a riff sampled from the wallpaper of his home studio but also the shirts of tradies and hipsters, and maybe some ancestral memory of kilts. A highlight is his work Interior/Exterior, where broad green checks on a pink background give way to a view of the top few floors of a spare apartment building, marooned in a sea of sky. A cold exterior is viewed through the frame of the warm, saturated interior. A reminder, perhaps, of the layers of idiosyncratic memory and history that amass behind every blank suburban blank façade.

Lynda Draper’s ceramic sculptures are abstracted self-portraits where the head becomes a moveable, changeable system. Her head-vessels appear light-hearted and playful; the faces are abstracted and the glazes are bright. The expressions, however – or lack thereof – seem quiet and serious. The external self is a crowd pleaser, but an introvert is not far beneath the surface. In Self Portrait Hair Up or Down, a handle of hair protrudes from a lumpen head like a pitcher. In Self Portrait Hair Up, a two-tiered up-do becomes a trophy cup, with multiple strands organised as handles, as if the whole team could grab one and drink from the winnings. The idea of competition contrasts with the slowness of the medium, which bears the time-stamped indentations of the artist’s hand.

Isaac Nixon’s works are formal explorations what might constitute – or substitute – a surface and a medium for painting. A recent National Art School painting graduate, Nixon sculpts small, painting-shaped objects from non-art materials: tiles, scrunched masking tape, a doona cover. Some are coated in paint or gesso, turning the materials of tape and cotton into the support in lieu of canvas or board; in the case of Tile Piece, mosaic tiles become the painted surface atop a timber support. Sensation and association are built up through the materials themselves rather than through a painted image. Domestic mosaic tiles, utilitarian packing tape, comforting bed linen. Some are soft and pliant, others rigid and unyielding, evident in their willingness or lack thereof to conform to the rectangular motif.

The etchings of Lucienne West, also a recent National Art School graduate, channel early-twenties angst through a DIY fanzine aesthetic. Words and phrases like song lyrics wend around moody portraits: ‘Time ain’t gonna cure you honey’, ‘To forget I’m missing you’. A cigarette hanging from lips, a listless figure in bed. Fragmented words and figures seem to recur between the prints, creating an instant sense of déjà-vu and complementing the nostalgic aesthetic. Etching is a gradual, cumulative process, and its combination of velvety tones and fine line detail suits the diaristic tone of this series.

Andrea Chen, a recent graduate from UNSW Art & Design, combines oral family history with animation and a documentary approach in her video work, Yi. A record of her grandparents’ experiences during the Sino-Japanese war, Yi combines archival images with hand-drawn animations that reconstruct the traumatic scenes described. In an imaginative twist, there are passages where her elderly grandparents’ faces and hands are sketched, moving in time with their recorded voices. The result is a sense of time passing, of reflection and also of the vagaries and complexities of memory. The work is specific, personal and intimate, but it also acts a historical document. This fluctuation between the personal and the universal, the intimate and the external, underpins the diverse works in this show.

artist talks