Ross Coulter, Feb 2010

Ross Coulter, Prelude
Seventh Gallery, Fitzroy
3 February to 20 February, 2010

Occupying the large front gallery of Seventh, Prelude commands a presence. A large group of paper sculptures hang suspended in space, as if floating, frozen. As many as two dozen of these occupy the gallery, each an aggregate of folded paper, taped together, that on closer inspection reveal themselves to be paper planes. This revelation at once activates a sense of joy and sets the mind racing into interpretation.

Joy comes first from the whimsical nature of playfulness, of the memory of childlike aspirations to flight. Then from the sense of arrested motion, as these planes are bound together, only gently rocking in the ambient breeze of the gallery space. In their clusters they appear as stars, suns or planets. Shards of paper, drawn together by some unseen but clearly potent gravitational force, or perhaps exploding outwards from a central point.

Each cluster is made of the same material and is the same apparent size. They are uniformly white, with intricate shadows cast within and all speak at the same volume. All formed or forming at the same rate. This continuity is broken only by the occasion plane, or small cluster of planes, on the floor. Again here the play of gravity comes to mind and the apparent futility of representing or replicating forces. The surging energy of star formation disrupted by its assimilation into paper models.

The clusters all sit at a height somewhere between the pelvis and the head, making the navigation of them, and the space they occupy, a bodily-conscious experience. Ducking, weaving and encircling them adds further to the feeling that these are frozen moments of time. Suspensions, in several senses.

In the very centre of the gallery is another sculptural form. Sitting on half a dozen or so sheets of polystyrene, a large block of concrete presents a figurative presence. At its apex two paper planes appear as if flown directly into its head. Here again the interplay of light and heavy rings out. The apparent heft of the concrete block sits comfortably on the almost weightless polystyrene base, with only the slightest hint of instability given by its perceived weight.

The block itself looks as if cast from product packaging, a reflection of the polystyrene upon which it sits. This inversion of space, a negative space filled, draws connections with the paper planes in the floating clusters and the apparent space that those planes are either moving out into, or converging on.

The sculptural form is also engine-block shaped, suggesting a harnessing of power. A power required to sustain elevation drawn from a necessary weightiness of materials. This notion of harnessed power is further amplified by the figurative nature of the sculpture, especially its similarity to a seated buddha-like figure, summoning ideas of focused energy and meditative contemplation. Where the two paper planes collide with the concrete form, a reinforced sense of motion, or motion frozen, is given, drawing back a relationship amongst the entire body of work and sealing its apparent expressions into a sustained aggregate.

(published at artinfo.com.au)

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