Review: Wardlow Opinion

Untitled Show at Wardlow Studio

4 Wood St, Fitzroy
http://www.wardlow.com.au/wardlow.html

Artists
Jackson Slattery
Katie Breckon
Simon Noynay

A one night only show at Wardlow  Studio proved to be one of the more interesting I have seen this year. Slattery's work in particular is a bit of a revelation.

The weakest part of this show was a series of drawings by Noynay. These drawings were faintly surreal but lacking the psychological punch that makes surrealism interesting. The effect was reminiscent of the sort of random connections of images in high-school doodlings. Noynay is a fine designer and his design work is much more interesting than the drawings presented here.

Katie Breckon presented an installation including drawings of missing children and various objects associated with crime scenes. The installation was a collection of old materials and objects presented in a way that suggests but ultimately   resists  construction of a narrative. That is quite pleasing in an art work - so much better to have the meaning just beyond one's grasp than firmly within it. This is similar to the way that an unsolved crime presents evidence without conclusion. Interestingly, on the night the works were crawling with flying termites. This was so much in keeping with the work that I was sure that the artist had somehow contrived a method to train the termites to infest the installation. It was happy accident, though none the less effective for that.

Slattery has shown two large watercolours of dark pop-gothic imagery. The skill demonstrated in these images is so fine that they are utterly beguiling. In addition, he has shown a major work documenting a trip to Russia. The work includes drawings, watercolours and photographs mounted hastily and haphazardly on the wall. The photographs are not polished and are presented as standard holiday snaps. The imagery is rough and raw, rather than picturesque. Also mounted are small watercolours, in the same scale as the snaps, and clearly painted from the same  suite of photographs. These tiny paintings are extraordinary expositions of painterly skill. It took careful examination to pick the snaps from the paintings. Jackson is working hard to eliminate the evidence of himself from his work. The futility of this exercise is poignant - to paint so precisely that the paintings are almost exact facsimiles of the rather rough photographs which are their subject. This act underlines the futility of art in general - the imperfection of communication between humans. The circularity of representation - after all that work, do we just end up where we started? But the intensity of the work is phenomenal - the time and the skill involved in making the paintings is palpable. 

The photographs have a quality which suggests either an accidental or unauthorised documentation of an unpleasant or secret subject - an intrusive intimacy (naked women apparently unaware of the photographer) or a moment of aggression or injury (a human thumb in a wolf's mouth). The apparent time taken over the manual reproduction of these photographs suggests a transgression on the part of the artist in staring at something forbidden and treating it as a subject worthy of prolonged consideration and reworking. The viewer is implicated in this transgression by the extra care in viewing necessary to distinguish the paintings from the photographs.  The  determinedness of the transgression and the futility of these small, subtle highly skilled paintings  combine to produce a moment of near sublime beauty.

Sam Leach

By Sam Leach

Sam Leach

Leach is an artist living and working in Melbourne. He was born in Adelaide in 1973 and moved to Melbourne in the early 90s. Leach completed his honours degree in painting at RMIT in 2004 and is currently doing his masters. In 2006 Leach won the Metro5 prize and the Geelong contemporary art prize. This year he was a finalist in the Archibald. Leach shows at Nellie Castan gallery in Melbourne (show coming up in June) and Sullivan and Strumpf gallery in Sydney