Many thanks to arts writer Susannah Smith for excellent piece on our current exhibition.

Permutations at Home

Susannah Smith

Home@735 is not your usual gallery. It avoids the somewhat predatory environment of commercialism often found elsewhere, as we are invited to wander the corridors of a terrace house and take-in its curated offerings. The gallery maintains the charm of an inner-city terrace and although all personal accoutrements of domesticity have been removed to the private rooms of the house, there is still a welcome sense of informality, as if stepping off Bourke Street into a friend’s home. Narrow corridors and nooks encourage us to look closely and provide the rare intimacy of uninterrupted ‘home’ viewing.

The works of four artists are collected together for the gallery’s latest show, 19.08.15. The artists each deal with notions of transfiguration through evolving forms and space; and a subtle forcefulness is seemingly common to all of the works.

This is perhaps most obvious upstairs, in the work of Savina Hopkins, who dubs her work a ‘violent’ process of ‘masking and describing.’ Hopkins has transformed a number of black and white photographic studio portrait postcards, dating from 1910-1930, by cutting out the faces of the sitters and filling the void with carefully arranged band-aids. The sticking-plasters recall the contours of the figures’ faces in an abstract sense and the artificial skin tones of the band-aids breathe a half-life back into the black and white images. As Hopkins notes, this is both a gesture of caring and bandaging, and one of covering and smothering. Separated by time, Hopkins emphasizes the unknowability of the photographed figures, and by placing these salvaged sitters at an additional remove she considers the nostalgia with which we often read images from the past.
Nearby in an antique vitrine Somchai Charoen’s Landmind series of ceramic sculptures also consider concealment. Charoen has cast a number of ceramic landmines and masked each of them with a beautiful porcelain flower. Originally conceived as part of a large installation in last year’s Sculpture at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, the flower bombs formed a carpet which had to be navigated by visitors. Here in the gallery space, the six selected works owe their hair-raising poignancy not to their number en masse, but to their dangerous fragility and beauty as individual objects, spot-lit inside the vitrine. Each, it seems, is poised to explode. The works refer to the 10 million mines still thought to be dispersed across Cambodia, and the combination of symbols brings to mind images of the anti-war movement in the West. However, rather than a clash of diametric symbols, the symbolic tradition of Charoen’s Thai homeland equates artificial flowers with death through their association with carved temple monuments, their stasis and forged vision of life. Charoen’s flowers come to act as markers which flag danger, yet by their very make-up they are complicit in the deceit.

Elsewhere, another series of works by Charoen experiment with the mutability of forms. Charoen’s Stack Vases are slip-cast from modular moulds, comprised of simple geometric shapes which are stacked together to create complex forms. These flexible moulds offer endless permutations and illustrate a playfulness that is reflected in Charoen’s use of coloured slip and clear gloss glaze.

The bold geometry of Charoen’s vases finds sympathy with Genevieve Felix Reynolds’ paintings. Reynolds explores infinite two-dimensional space through vast smooth geometric planes of oil on aluminium. She pictures a linear world that extends beyond each work uniting them as an alternate dimension. Punctuating this slick universe of flat planes are painterly flourishes, seemingly caught as glimpses beyond the geometric skin of the paintings’ surface. These act as windows through to fantasy spaces of receding depth, like apertures through a metallic frame. Reynolds calls these her ‘Baroque’ elements, and there is certainly a serpentine limb-like form in her Ruinenwert. These textural contrasts speak to the aesthetic contrasts of art history and to marked changes in artistic means of production; illustrating a shift from the hand-made and gestural, to the reproducible, digital and industrial. Yet, Reynolds’ consideration of space extends beyond art to the architectural aesthetics of the lived environment, to contemporary, digitally drawn, linear architecture, and to beauty for posterity. Translated, the German term ‘ruinenwert’ articulates a romantic architectural concept, that a building be designed with the beauty of its future crumbling ruin in mind. Reynolds’ paintings bridge the gestural and linear divide by championing an everlasting beauty in both.     

Samuel Cutcher’s assemblage sculptures also hone in on the built environment, as Cutcher explores relationships between man-made structures and the natural landscape. Cutcher utilises building matter to create framed sculptures and he places particular emphasis on wooden materials, such as shingles and timber planks. Many of Cutcher’s assembled boxes have holes cut into them; some look as though he has punched through the outside wall of a house and cut through the horizontal striations of its wooden plank cladding to a solid wooden heart. In these cross-sections, Cutcher gives us a glimpse of the tree’s other, earlier life in nature. There is a balanced circularity to Cutcher’s works as they consider transforming nature in situ; building a house from wood logged nearby and thereby ‘working’ nature to place it afresh into the landscape of its origin. Hills rise through the rough and rounded cut-out shapes to form bold outlines. Cutcher’s Architectural Landscapes, like all of the works in this show, meld form and concept through unfolding permutations.

collage by Savina Hopkins, ceramics by Somchai Charoen
collage by Savina Hopkins, ceramics by Somchai Charoen