Review: Jumping geometries

 Jumping geometries

Anna Finlayson, Shhh (The hexagon trip), Sarah Scout Presents, 1a Crossley St, until 18 May
Anne-Marie May, Murray White Room, Sargood Lane, until 15 June
Susan Buret, for the love of vermillion, Anita Traverso Gallery, Albert St, Richmond, until 25 May
Sonia Payes, Fehily Contemporary, Glasshouse Rd, Collingwood, until 25 May
Geometry that jumps has a special value in art.  In most circumstances, geometry is perfectly regular. Anything geometrical can be described by lines and angles, sequences, repetition and uniformity, where each part is predictable by the formula that generates it.

Against the reliable character of geometry, four women show how the geometrical makes a theatre of oddness, coincidence, chaos and crisis.  Jumping unpredictably by reflections and ambiguity, the geometric ends up going beyond its mathematical brief.
Anna Finlayson is so fastidious about lining things up that she even draws her own graph paper.  Her showat Sarah Scout comprises drawings of hexagons in their hundreds, all arrayed in complicated agreements with one another upon a grid.  As if acknowledging the limits of your visual comprehension, the patterns fade toward the edge.
In the centre of the room, two wooden frames accommodate hexagonal tubes in reflective cardboard.  They vary in size, so that when stacked in the frame, the honeycomb-matrix is stretched and squashed.  Some of the tubes are pulled in or out, so that the grille has an organic sinuous quality as well.
The reflective surface also plays unpredictable tricks, because it splits the light prismatically.  If you look from one side, the light is bluish and from the other side it’s yellowish, perhaps influenced by the cool colour of the window and the warm colours of the floor respectively.

At Murray White, Anne-Marie May also creates irregular geometric forms with unexpected optical effectsthrough reflection.  A black sculpture in acrylic sheet funnels the gaze to a faceted aperture, like a kaleidoscopic jewel that moves as you approach.  When you walk around the sculpture, you notice that the rear end is small and that all the other planes that you saw were nothing but reflections.  It’s as if the geometry has jumped across the gap.
May’s sculptures are folded or crumpled geometries, where one plane has been crimped under heat to create another.  Alongside these works, which are often screwed to the wall as if paintings, a further series casts crumpled pieces of paper in bronze.  The somewhat random forms are all the outcome of a plane under pressure, geometry under stress, to yield something that no longer has the Platonic integrity of the sheet of paper.
Another artist who makes geometry jump is Susan Buret.  Her exhibition at Anita Traverso containsmanypictures of staunch geometrical rigour but where the components form solids.  The most striking example is Damascus star, in which illusionistic cubes jamb up the picture plane in a great tumble, like falling rocks.  But in fact their apparently chaotic assembly in the void is perfectly regular, creating ideal stars between them.
Your eye and brain have work hard to reconcile the big energetic volumes and the flat pattern that they leave behind.  Like the famous duck-rabbit illusion, you cannot see both at once:  your system toggles between block and star, jumping at a stubborn pace the harder you try to see both at once.
Finally, Sonia Payes at Fehily Contemporary makes a jump in the new digital geometries of 3D virtual imagery.  Based on the image of her daughter, Payes uses the copy facility of 3D modelling to clone the face to make a solid of four Janus-like visages.  She then multiplies and stacks the quadrangular heads to construct a flexing totem pole, as if each vertebra supporting the head is another head.  Replicating these bendy poles almost infinitely, she lays them out upon a mountainous scaffold, also a grid that bends.
In jumpy frames, the virtual camera then jerks over this terrifying terrain, where the head-grass becomes a forest of freakish fodder, a GM crop bio-engineered with human DNA, an organic field colonized by geometry.  Between portent and farce, a sound track with harrowing winds and sinister bass suggests that this wasteland—both abominably luxuriant and desolate monoculture—is a restless repository of nuked souls.
This review by Robert Nelson (‘When art goes geometric, appreciation comes on a higher plane’, The Age 15 May 2013) does not appear online, so we have taken the liberty of reproducing it here.


By Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson

Associate Professor Robert Nelson is Associate Director, Student Learning Experience at Monash University and Art Critic for The Age. Robert’s most recent book, Instruments of contentment: furniture and poetic sustainability, was published by Craft Victoria, 2014, available freely online.