Date: 09-Aug-2014 – 07-Sep-2014
Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania
“I think that the effort is to reach a realm of meaning that is not quite sayable. You stay away from what can be said and you try to reach what can’t quite be said. Yet it is nevertheless meaningful. And there is such a realm and it is very difficult to talk about. It’s not quite nonverbal, but that comes fairly close.”
— Donald Bartheleme, “Interview with Charles Ruas and Judith Sherman,” in Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews, ed. Kim Herzinger (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 1997), 214.
When trying to open a door the wrong way we are suddenly faced with reinterpreting our, often automatic, understanding of the world. Subtle aspires to provoke this strange feeling of uncertainty in the gallery visitor through artworks that operate in a region between the everyday mundane and highly skilled illusion. It is this tension created between the familiar and the unfamiliar that acts as a subtle wedge to prise open our pragmatically sealed sense of wonder. Artworks that are purposely-ambiguous can heighten our perception and cause us to stop and reconsider our engagement with things.
The artworks in Subtle range across sculpture and installation formats. Jones and White both engage with the world of artistic copies and the associated issues of the original, the photographic and the relationship between objects and language. Jones casts found objects while White models them – both also photograph their copies. Lee and Waller make indeterminate sculptural objects that then become part of larger installations. For Lee our bodily motion mediated and ordered by objects is important while for Waller the realisation of usually unnoticed space interests him. Johnson works with the dimensions and structures of the gallery itself and finds ways to intervene that shift the familiar into a strange place. The relationship between these works is important, each artist offering a slightly different aspect of uncertainty presented in a highly deliberate manner.
The subtle nuances at play within the artist’s work have been honed through years of careful consideration. The artworks have been selected to not represent any obvious message on the premise that using artworks as carriers of information tends to buffer a more intimate engagement with the artwork and its inherent qualities. Like the way we do not think of paper, ink and industrial scale printing while reading a newspaper artworks can also disappear, as an experience of art, through being used up and consumed as information. Subtle celebrates the richness and depth available in simple physical things and their potential to exceed the limits of our knowledge.
Emma White, Untitled (useless, powerful) I, 2008, polymer clay, courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art.
Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.