Please welcome Din Heagney, The Art Life’s newest contributor and our inaugural Melbourne Affairs Editor…
Linden’s recent Innovators series has raised the bar by attracting a higher calibre of curators and artists to one of the few decent inner southside galleries left in Melbourne.
This first series for 2010 includes Andy Hutson, Ben Ernst, Tess Milne, Skye Kennewell, and Lisa Barmby, and there are some strong themes around artificial constructions of interior space and landscape. Each of these artists plays with our relationship to memory and expectation, and there are some surprisingly strong links between the works.
Ernst’s (It Will be a) New Garden towered over the main front gallery with a monolith of foam mattress parts, piled into an unwieldy artificial mountain scape that brought to mind ancient Chinese myth of a turtle carrying the world on its back. This worldview, however, has melted into an edifice of astroturf, polyfiller and faux plastic ferns on a lit up podium to be enjoyed from his nearby over-sized Alice in Wonderland bench seat. The install is finely finished and immaculately installed, replete with the addition of a bay window viewing space from the entrance, but it’s all fascinating and cool with its post-waste regrowth, not cynical but aesthetically and materially portentous.
It was Hutson’s expansive yet claustrophobic takeover of the other front gallery, a space usually filled with light and high ceilings and now sunk into total darkness, which really stole the show. Everything You Know is About to Change, Forever is Hutson pushing his medium to the hilt. Where Ernst had created a miniature garden world from waste and artificial growth in a sculptural display, Huston had inverted the experience — creating a dark and embracing installation within a black and lonely, and yet somehow comforting, world. With every window and light source covered in heavy black plastic, Hutson recreated a campsite in the gallery — a makeshift space with a blue tarp suspended on sticks, with a camera, backpack, longneck beer, sleeping bag and thermarest, Penguin paperbacks, cigarettes, ashtray and notebook all sitting under a few decrepit looking trees. The wonder of Hutson’s practice, the total expression of the ‘end of times’ experience, is that every single object is made from papier mâché.
Hutson’s not alone in a local practice of realist sculptural reproductions of everyday objects in paper. Carly Fischer (now in Berlin) and Natasha Frisch pop to mind, but Hutson’s dedication to the form, despite his talents in other media, is rewarding in the realisation of an ambitious scale in Everything You Know… The fragility of these individual works created for me a slow empathy and deeper questions arise, past the concerns of medium and form: who is staying here, eating from these paper tins of Campbell’s soup cans, reading paperback and paper-made philosophies… the artist, or me? The artificiality of the campsite intensified inside the dark and warm space, for the usual air vents were blocked in the gallery, so the darkness could almost feel endless, a solitariness that would turn into loneliness were it not for the silent video show emanating from an enormous papier mâché boulder in the corner.
I can be very fussy about video art (despising much of it for having wasted my time) but Hutson’s repetitive experiments with word form variations of KNOWLEDGE are engaging and fruitful, if a little deconstructive. In the start, the word sits made from food in a small garden tank. On time lapse the soil become a squirming, heaving mass of micro-organisms that are usually unnoticed in human time, snails ride over it, caterpillars chew at the edges, and the garden slowly grows as the KNOWLEDGE rots away. Then the artist writes out the word in full, and erases it letter by letter. Icecubes making the word melt and flow away. Letters made from clumps of dirt are washed away from a glass pane. Polystyrene letters fizzles and burns under a heater. The artist wields a wooden mallet and pummels plasticine letters into an unrecognisable lump. These in studio video creations are simple but powerfully revelatory in this dark and solitary world: knowledge itself is organic, transitory and unstable. Ultimately, KNOWLEDGE is destructible.
Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, St Kilda
10 April — 9 May 2010