Jessie Fairweather, Everything is from nothing (Exploring the Big Bang)
Cameron Robbins, Working with Atmosphere
Stockroom Gallery, Kyneton, Victoria, 17 September to 9 October, 2011
Robbins is well known for his wind drawing machines, his focus on process and on the generative power of natural forces. His ‘Weatherglyph’ series is a new iteration of his wind drawings but with a completely alternative temporal approach. Drawings created by his kinetic machines in various locations across Australia and China, directed by the wind flow of the environment, have been rendered in bronze and mounted to the walls of Gallery 2. This transference from machine scratchings to solidified metal castings freezes the dynamic and chaotic elements of the ever-evolving global atmosphere into hardened factuality. A moment of the past, historicised into permanence, heightening its apparent significance from one time and space, across a multitude of times and spaces. Additionally, it throws into sharp relief the nature of the materiality of the bronze – itself a liquefied rock, shaped and moulded by a process of manual labour, and then recast as mineral rock. The ephemeral simultaneously locked down and drawn out.
Within the gallery a grey, anamorphic plinth bears a bronze honeycomb form sitting atop a slate base. Evoking the geological formation in northern Ireland, known as the Giant’s Causeway, together with the biological hive activities of bees, this work again conflates temporal concerns. These hives of solid bronze honeycomb negate the implication of stored energy, of nurturing and nourishment, stultifying the organic cycle and yet project geological cycles of a tectonic scale upon the cultural behaviours of these biological processes.
On the entrance wall to the space, upon a shelf, sits ‘Hesse’s Gauge’, a more didactic, and consequently, less potent work. A shelf, with brass plaque containing a 1919 quote from Herman Hesse, holds a library book called ‘Electricity and Magnetism’ which has had rusted nails hammered into it, apparently by the hammer-handled barometer mounted on the wall above it. Directly reflecting the quote of the plaque ‘…like trying to drive a nail with a hammer…’ it reads too quickly as illustrative. The relationship of archived knowledge about natural forces and the textual reference to the politicisation of labour provides some leverage for interpretation but is out of sequence with the broader body of work in the show.
Atmospheric Test Rig, an installation just next to the gallery space that utilised the industrial materials of the building, commanded a lengthened study. Enclosed within a clear glass case, a swirling, ascending column of smoke danced and writhed its way into a curved pipe at the top and disappeared into a monolithic and ancient boiler before being cast out into the skies over Kyneton. This transitional extraction of materials from within a constructed container, through the architectural framework of the gallery and into the external environment provides an energetic catalyst for interpretative meaning. Reflecting conceptual elements of system theory once explored by the likes of Hans Haacke and Robert Smithson, this piece at once ties art systems to natural systems and allows for each to reflect the other.
In the larger space of Gallery 1 Jessie Fairweather has mounted a series of crisp geometric monoprints that deal primarily in dualities: Push/pull, Complexity/Simplicity and Melt/Condense are examples of the titles. Text is subtly and gently featured with the line and shape of the signs, but always subsidiary – like moons orbiting their planetary masters. Reading like highly stylised information graphics crossbred with op-art and 70s folk string art, they also generate a tension between stasis and dynamism. The moire pattern effects of the blended line work creates a vibrational intensity that works to amplify the duality of the themes – vibration, like waves, going from ebb to flow and back again.
The sharp geometric forms are driven by circularity at a macro scale, but reveal a clever play of line at a micro-level that generates triangular variation and the optical confusion of parabolic curves in the overlay of circular lines. The clarity of the lines speak of mathematical purity and scientific precision, which is then also coupled with a sort of logo-monolithic symbolism one might associate with high modernism, but with the authoritative tone wrung out of it by the playfulness of colour and textual poetics.
Bringing the dynamic elements of the works out into a further direction, Fairweather pushes some of her pieces into sculptural territory. This is best achieved when reflective of her subtle play with line. In Landscape, a field of triangular paper folds peek out from the mounted plane at variously oriented angles, allowing for shadows that fall in differing patterns. This field of protruding geometry reaching toward the viewer echoes the tension of stasis/dynamism of the moire patterns and brings new light to bear on the duality of the text, amplifying the spatial signification of the flatter geometric prints.