The Finkelstein Files: Thresholds of Perception

Melbournian artist Camille Hannah wants to challenge you. She wants to make you wonder about the contrasts between painting, photography and sculpture, and blur the lines between tradition and modernity. Hannah works on perspex, painting luscious strokes of oils onto the back of convex domed circles, using handmade brushes – a skill she picked up during an artist residency in China. Her palettes are moody and sumptuous, the rich colours reminiscent of a Caravaggio.

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Hannah’s works are 3-dimensional and painted on convex supports. As a material object they embody a spatiality that also challenges the distinction between painting and photography, painting and sculpture. As with her previous work, scale probes the limits of the visible with baroque play and the viewer must penetrate a space that represents the body- a foreign body – in order to see the image within.

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If painting circular pictures is problematic, spare a thought for artists who attempt to also paint on convex glass or perspex. It’s a punishingly tricky prospect, and so it’s doubly amazing that  oil on convex Perspex abstracts – manages to pull it off. In essence, Hannah’s final paintings are evidence of the reverse of her process, the gestural paint strokes, details and other ‘foreground’ features are the first laid down, while the backgrounds and other effects are the last.

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Her works aim to address the viewer at the threshold of vision and touch. As seeing relies on a plurality of sense organs, there is a visual correlation that compels perception to fleetingly pass through the sense of touch. This discrepancy between visual and tactile perception becomes a frontier area of sensation. There is a bodily presence in a wavering relation of moving outward and drawing back, identification and distancing. By inciting the viewer to move – the visual field of the works aim to be the space that envelops the viewer.

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Where space comes forward: the threshold of two and three dimensional representation of the flat image and the image-in-space and the concomitant compulsion to incorporate becomes an easily – crossed threshold of perception – an opening toward a dialectic between the interior and exterior, and the centre and its edges. These paintings are labyrinthine: the folds and curves aim to engage the body at the threshold of seduction and recoil, an interactivity that can never be construed on the basis of stillness. In this respect they strive to hold the viewer in a temporality by way of a ‘spatial stickiness’.

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Michel Lawrence from Inside Art interviews Camille Hannah about her work and practice here

See Camille’s AUSiMED artwork here.

august 2015

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The Finkelstein Files: The Sublime Ms.Shaw

Artist Kate Shaw has an enduring fascination with interplanetary colonisation and what it might mean. Through a series of vibrant, psychedelic landscapes, she suggests these yearnings are a complicated combination of hope for new beginnings and a sense of hopelessness about a planet we seem certain we’ll lose.

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“My practice re-interprets notions of what constitutes landscape painting, both within an art historical context and a contemporary social context. The paintings deal with the tensions and dichotomies in both the depiction of the natural world and our relationship with it. I am currently exploring the sublime in nature whilst imbuing a sense of toxicity and artificiality in this depiction. The intention is to reflect upon the contradiction between our inherent connection to the natural world and continual distancing from it. My paintings aim to convey ideas of nature, alchemy and creation by operating on one level as a landscape another as abstraction.”

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In Kate Shaw’s work what we see, and what in fact are facing, are two distinctly different things. A viewer may immediately recognise a glacier, an alpine ridge, a snow-capped mountain, but we are equally witnessing a montage of abstract chemical reactions.

In a Rorsach test a patient is gently encouraged to make sense out of abstractions, to see a rabbit in a black and white ink-blot. In experimental pursuits in the 1960s patients were administered a healthy dose of LSD to respond to these monochromatic abstractions. It’s not hard to imagine the poten- tial hallucinogenic blast of such a process. The Surrealists were also enamoured of such shifting notions of reality, utilising their technique of ‘de- calcomania’ in order to find subconscious form in abstract materials.

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Shaw’s work has a similar interaction with the viewer, the patterns we recognise through her deft manipulation of coloured chemicals leads us into a world we immediately recognise, even if that world is pure fantasy.

This realm of signs becoming synonymous with what may be dubbed the ‘real world’ was best ar- ticulated by Roland Barthes in his exploration of semiotics. Signs and perception become blurred, the same way a swoosh on a sneaker now clearly reads as the word Nike. In Shaw’s work the notion of ‘landscape as product’, as an inevitably read sign amidst abstraction, blurs reality.

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What makes adroit patrons think Kate Shaw’s works are worth acquiring? That’s in the eye of each beholder, but I’m enthused because her paintings, and now videos, signify the spirit of the emerging Earth observations (EO) movement, where space imaging and sensing technologies are ubiquitously deployed to monitor and manage environments. (The goal of climate scientists is to build a global ‘autopiloting’ system to answer Buckminster Fuller’s 1968 call for ‘an operating manual for Spaceship Earth’.)

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See Kate’s AUSiMED art work here

august 2015

The Finkelstein Files: The Pixel Princess

Needlepoint often invokes clichéd images of lighthouses, landscapes or floral patterns, but Michelle Hamer has a different approach. Hamer is using this textile craft to explore the urban landscape and “the small in-between moments that characterize everyday life.”

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This unexpected imagery is very familiar. The billboards, chain link fences and highways are scenes that we all recognize, but perhaps they are also scenes we overlook. These hand-stitched works help us to have new eyes in seeing the landscape that is around us. In the artist’s words, “This traditional technique exposes an ironic romanticism present between manual pixelation and the digitisation of imagery in contemporary society.”

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“I see my work as a type of socio-historic documentation. The images depicted are in between moments that we often take for granted. The obviously slow process allows viewers to become more conscious of these moments which are captured within an instant and consider the difference between the manual and the digital.

The in-between spaces (on/off ramps of freeways etc.) where signage can often be found is both necessary for our infrastructure, but also generally not noticed. Similarly, much of the text, advertising signage, streetscapes are so familiar we can fail to focus/really see it, but it’s often reflective of our broader social ambitions, aspirations and edicts.

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“I believe art can explore issues in ways that bring them to the fore. To me, my art very personally addresses some quite difficult issues about illness and social edicts and aspirations. I’ve got very strong personal ties to issues of trauma, health and war and I know that people read different things into my work which I think is good, but I know some people who have big struggles who feel acknowledgment in it. Art can help raise or highlight serious issues as much as it can be about commodification. As an artist, I do grapple with these things. In the end, I guess all we can hope for is to inspire people to ask more questions.”

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“I have a couple of big things I’m looking forward to. I’ll be spending some time making some London based work for an art fair there and I also have an ambitious interactive project planned. I’m ultimately interested in the idea of socio-historic mapping and boundaries. So I hope to get opportunities to continue engaging with the world and highlight the challenges we face. I feel lucky that I have a somewhat dark sense of humour and much of the ‘stuff’ I end up documenting (and the edge of life that faces challenges) keeps me pretty amused.”

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Michelle is represented by Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne. See Michelle Hamer’s AUSIMED art work here

august 2015

The Hague – From Newport to New York

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Ah Robert Hague, the Rotoruan wunderkind wizard of materiality! I cannot disguise my wonder at his range of work, which is both prolific and prodigious.

In addition to short-listing for numerous National awards and participating in a swag of exhibitions, this year has been largely an enormous turning point for this well-deserving, accomplished sculptor and draftsman. Fehily Contemporary wooed him into their eclectic and highly collectable stable of rising young stars – a bold move & a marriage made in heaven I’m sure.

In May 2013, the leading construction firm Form700 commissioned a technically challenging sculpture, of significant scale, to reflect their business practice and to celebrate the opening of their new head offices based in Melbourne, Australia.

After the initial model, the decision was made to attempt the work in concrete. The result is 65 tonnes of concrete (18,500 kg above ground) at 5.1 m tall. Take a look below at the nuts & bolts development from woe to go :

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Top Left: A 200cm scale working model was made in high grade stainless steel and doubles as the interior foyer work.
Bottom Left: A preliminary test casting (artists studio) of the helical curve with internal stainless steel was made in plain mortar.
Bottom Right: The segmented joints and visible fixing design reflects components used in everyday formwork construction and allows for sectional casting.
Top Right: The full-scale reinforcing for the rigid internal structure, with all 8 stainless steel segments totalling 350kg.

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Top Left: The segmented joints and visible fixing design reflects components used in everyday formwork construction and allows for sectional casting.
Top Right: The fullscale reinforcing for the rigid internal structure, with all 8 stainless steel segments totalling 350kg.
Bottom Right: 10mm hydraulically formed stainless steel plates overlap to form the internal connections.

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Top Left: The re-usable helical curve mould.
Top Right: The elbow mould assembly with cap ends.
Bottom Left: The 230cm tall base mould, a fluted hexagonal design drawing inspiration from Roman colums.
Bottom Right: Engineered footing.

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Top Left: The final connecting plate’s internal structure, which allowed for minor welded adjustment in the pattern.
Top Right: Casting.
Bottom Right: Each cast section is patched after de-moulding and hangs ready for assembly.

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An incredibly hard 80mpa polymer fibre reinforced concrete mix was used, designed specifically for this project. Assembly, installation, followed by anchoring.

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Completion!

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Trojan Hammer (urn). 2013                                                                                                           Hand printed lithograph on 400gsm cotton rag paper, 65 x 65cm, edition of 10.

If concrete, corten or stainless steel doesn’t mire your imagination with logistical gymnastics, then take a closer look at the intricacy that his renderings turned lithographic works on paper reveal. Subtle, yet oh-so-powerful.

Around the middle of 2012,  Hague returned to drawing after a 20 year absence. The urn image pictured above,  forms an integral part of a limited edition series and has been acquired last month by the Geelong Art Gallery for their collection.

A survey exhibition  A Decade of Deca, was well-received mid year at Deakin University, who have been early proponents of Hague’s oeuvre.   Art historians from Ken Scarlett, author of many tomes and Ashley Crawford have all endeavoured to grapple with Hague’s range of subject matter and mediums. Not for the feint-hearted.

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Hague’s lithograph Trojan Hammer – Bernini, 2013 is the anchoring image on a feature wall for The Baron’s Palate opening exhibition event of  art, design & gastronomic fare in the the depths of Melboure’s wintery late July.

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Deca, 2008, bronze 24ct gold, 30 x 12 x 5 cm each
Courtesy of collection of Louisa and Rowland Hirst, New York.

An avid art collector, based with Sotheby’s in New York, purchased a pair of Deca hammers this year. The sculptures  were created at a time which marked a profound transition and direction in his work. Featuring delicate gold lacework, they are rich in cultural reference revealing an almost baroque patterning.

The collector insisted that Hague must deliver them in person so she would have a legitimate reason to invite him to dinner and tout him about town as the next beast thing since sliced bread. So along with his passport, thongs (aka flip-flops), and beautiful partner, off he set to see a lady about a hammer.

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I am so looking forward to watching further tales unfurl before my eyes over the coming years – from Newport to New York. If our home is where our heart is, perhaps Robert Hague’s epicentre is now his passport.

TFF xx