Saturday, 11 May 2013

Marking Place: The Lie of the Land

Marking Place
Canberra Museum and Gallery
10 November 2012 - 24 March 2013

Marking Place is an exhibition about landscape and the poetics of place as expressed through the paintings, ceramics and sculptures of three Canberra artists; GW Bot, Anita McIntyre and Wendy Teakel. I quite like a lot of the exhibits, which invite interpretation through abstract forms and tenuous titles.

Anita McIntyre’s untitled paper porcelain, moonprint drawing and screenprint images of fish, shells, seed pods and fossils superimposed over a map of Queanbeyan, Ginunderra, Bengendore and other places of the Southern Tablelands is not especially subtle in its message about human intervention on old timeless land. Her 2011 Song Lines/ Survey Lines is very similar.

Untitled - Anita McIntyre
Song lines/ Survey lines - Anita McIntyre
I prefer her stoneware ceramics such as those from the Brindabella series in which coloured strips of stencils or graffiti intersperse on a curved rectangular platter like rows of receding hills in blue, brown, grey and green – the colour of hazel irises – as far as the eye can see?

Brindabella series - Anita McIntyre
I also like the porcelain and millefiori work, Pods/ Fragments/ State Circle (1986), which calls to mind fossils found, but the thin inlaid slices of stone are too uniform for geological shards. The Top End Wet from the Kakadu series (1996) features glazed and woodfired terra sigillata of stoneware in greys, blues, browns and greens as though smudges and blurred with violent rain.

Top End Wet - Anita McIntyre
The Boats series (2012) is a collection of ceramic troughs, like children’s paper boats called Mermaid 1833, Madras 1835, Hoogley 1836, James Moran 1841, Light of the Age 1857, Sirius 1788, Carrier of Family History 1 and Carrier of Family History 2. The boats all have images of fish, nautical calculations and coastal maps drawn on the sides and brief explanations on the insides, such as ‘James Moran 2,900 sheep’ printed in an antique-style font as though torn from a diary but faint and with missing words.

Boats - Anita McIntyre
G.W Bot presents many works in bronze and steel as well as linocuts and watercolour. Broken Garden (2003) looks like a twisted tree, or a fence or a gate, which asks questions of the viewer. Is it growing up, broken down, rusted black or regenerated through fire? A similar ambiguity can be found in Red Gums – Tree of Life (2012), which comprises ten rusted, corroded, gnarled shapes of similar size. Again the viewer can impose their own interpretation on the piece – are these twisted human shapes, animals or molluscs, or perhaps they have a more botanical bent indicating branches, leaves or roots?

Tree of Life - G.W. Bot
These abstract shapes are echoed in a 2000 series of linocuts; Alpha, Omega and Omega 1, in which they are scratches on paper overlaid on another backdrop – the smaller images in the Manuscript series (2000-2001) recall musical rolls for pianolas – pages encrypted with information that transforms into something almost magical.

Bot’s Concertina I, II and III (2012) are large wall hangings of linocuts on Chinese paper, incorporating Chinese motifs and the earlier designs. Here the colour palette is changed to red, black, white, silver and gold, with a patch of green at the bottom referencing both the Australian and Aboriginal colours.

The Long Paddock - G.W. Bot
Glyphs – Lower Molonglo (2010) meanwhile, is gold and white, graphite and watercolour on Colombe paper. The shapes resemble doodles or some unknown font or lexicon in a foreign alphabet. These glyphs are then repeated in many designs, changing meaning with colour scheme and backdrop. In Family portrait at midday they are rendered on a Chinese lithograph; Buried Glyphs (2009) are black and gold with an Egyptian implication; Paddock Glyphs and moon scroll down in red and black on white paper with a blood red disc in the left corner.

Glyphs, Lower Molongo - G.W. Bot
In Tree of Life (2009) bronze sculptures of the previous dashes and symbols are stuck individually to the wall. The Night of the Twelve Apostles (2012) is an interesting work and something of a departure. Like sticks or chair backs, tree-like formations stand at attention with firm foundations before a shining sun/son/halo.
Night of the Twelve Apostles - G.W. Bot
Bot’s final works on display, Entrance No 11/ No 12 (2012) are layers of linocut on BFK paper with tapa cloth and Joss paper. Printed with grasses and stems intact, they are a fusion of many styles of art and complementary materials suggesting a way in to her particular artistic designs and motifs.
The Entrance No. 11 - G.W. Bot
Incidentally, G.W. Bot is the exhibiting name of Chrissie Grishin who was born in Quetta, Pakistan of Australian parents. The family moved back to Australia in 1956 (when she was two), She lives and works in Canberra (having studied in London, Paris and Australia), where she s neighbour to many wombats, an animal she has adopted as her totem. The source for her working name comes from an eighteenth-century French reference to the wombat as ‘le grand Wam Bot’ – hence G.W. Bot.

Wendy Teakel’s work is intriguing. Tracing 1 and 2 (2009) are acrylic and pokerwork on plywood. The slashes on the earth-toned background of ochre, reds and browns look like cuts or stitches in the landscape. Drops of blood, footprints and meeting places are all suggested by this tearing apart and coming together – the dashes and gashes indicating both communication and obfuscation, much like the roundabouts of Canberra.

Tracing 1 - Wendy Teakel
Fallow (1994) is an acrylic and pokerwork on six plywood panels with a bamboozling array of lines and geometric forms. The stripes are golden brown and olive/khaki green – the colours of the earth. The title indicates that they represent ploughed furrows as the land is cultivated leaving certain areas fallow. The cross may symbolise Christianity as it is branded into the land, and perhaps the lines could be opposing forces?

Fallow - Wendy Teakel
Drought (2004) is similar to Fallow, but this time a broken barbed wire fence snakes across the acrylic and pokerwork on plywood. The break occurs in the centre of two panels, begging the question, can it be repaired? The shapes are perhaps firebreaks mown as pathways, or could that be a river with trees dotted on the bank? The title suggests it would be a dried-up river and one wonders why bother to protect it if it is too dry to grow anything? Again the crossroads are a central motif. Is she suggesting we are at one? Exactly who or what is broken, and is it possible to fix it?

Drought - Wendy Teakel
Wind (2005) again defies pat explanations. The concertina-ed materials (listed as wire, grass, acrylic and dirt) are woven and meshed together, with tufts of grass protruding from one end. Perhaps the shape has been formed and eroded by natural elements – it will make an eerie sound in the breeze, rendering it an wind instrument, and there is an inherent suggestion that this may be a boundary, but it is merely symbolic as there can be no protection afforded to either side due to the holes in the structure.

Wind - Wendy Teakel

Bush Track I - Wendy Teakel
Bush Track Bush Track I (2005) and Summer Paddock (2003) all seem to refer to our way of navigating through the land. Blobs and lines of colour, straight and curved indicate furrowed lines of agriculture leaving scars on the land. But these scars have potential benefits as pathways, waterways, contours to be mapped to bring people together and help them find their way.

The sculpture Dry Lake (2010), made from bronze wire, has empty pipes twisted into rings and plugged into the sides of the structure. Failed Crop (2010) comprises similar tortured, twisted shapes attesting to journeys through a barren landscape which is rich if you know where to look and what to look for.

Dry Lake - Wendy Teakel
A couple of rugs, Seed and Grass Scatter and Sand Tracks Murgo (both 2012) are inspired by floor drawings made of sand and pigment. Teakel’s designs were then interpreted and woven by a Nepalese artist at Kumbeshwar Tech School, Kathmandu, in a fantastically successful fusion of cultures.

Seed and Grass Scatter - Wendy Teakel
Late Summer Haze(2012) is a steel, wood, and grass construction – the wooden oval is fringed with branches that appear to have growth lines or ring marks half-way up their trunks and then seem charred, and is filled with fine grass like spun gold. By now I have pretty much lost all my powers of interpretation, and all this thinking has left me fair exhausted, but I just like this sculpture with its apparent bold simplicity.

Late Summer Haze - Wendy Teakel

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