Pat Brassington, In search of the marvellous
CAST Gallery, Hobart; 31 August – 6 October 2013
In sauna-like gallery conditions on an unseasonably warm afternoon in Hobart, with Australia’s (most likely) next Prime Minister in the news declaring he’ll probably scrap any pretense of achieving established carbon emissions reductions, the melting and distorted figures of Pat Brassington’s images seem all the more apocalyptic. Stretched like scanner-drag, isolated in the corners of rooms or ambiguous domestic settings, most of Brassington’s figures appear carnivalesque and dreamlike. Hovering between pseudo-sexual nightmare and theatrical puppetry. I’m always put in mind of the ghostly twins from Kubrick’s The Shining with Brassington’s work – classic uncanny. But there’s something a little more adult going on and the manner of her photographic work brings with it the ghosts of the medium’s pioneers as well as a certain graphic-poster sensibility not too far removed from dada. Perhaps a truly photo/graphic nature.
‘In search of the marvellous’ sees Brassington data-mining her own archive to reinvigorate unresolved works. I think this is apparent in some of the images, where the balancing act of maintaining ambiguity against an impending portent of apparent meaning is less subtle. Where there is a sense of experimentation in the actual content itself – a testing ground of partnerships. In other works this aspect is usurped by a clearly realised and innovative expression of complete integration. Not a collage, not even a hybridization, but a new internal logic.
Across the body of work there are thematic connections that tie the show together beyond its initial impetus. Masks exist in quite a few works and bring with them a feeling of theatre and identity play. Fragmented bodies are also evident, displacing individuality with universality and crossing species divisions to amalgamate the human with the animal. Or to activate the animal in the human. In a large work at one end of the gallery is a gridded set of eighteen square images: two sets of 3 images x 3 images. In this grid, occasionally repeated foreground images exist across the common background of a corner area of domestic space. Some foreground images are repeated not just from within the grid but are drawn from the greater body of work in the gallery. Networks are made and a sense of gamesmanship is at play.
The works are all black and white, except for two central works sitting on interior walls and facing off against each other. The way in which the work is printed on the paper is captivating, slipping its way between a sense of drawing, photography, photo-copy scanning and poster graphics. The figures themselves begin to feel like lost souls sliding between these worlds, caught forever in a limbo world of semi-connection to reality. Copies of memories. Recollections of de ja vu.
I can only hope this particular feeling isn’t a portent for what’s shortly to come on the political landscape as I head back onto the Hobart streets.