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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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’.)
Yesterday afternoon I dropped in to Helen Gory’s eponymously named Galerie in Prahran for last drinks. Celebrating an incredible 15 years in Prahran, the team are heading over the river & are eager to start a new chapter alongside fellow gallerists with Dianne Tanzer in Gertrude St, Fitzroy.
As the Australian commercial art world continues to face the challenge of rapidly changing market conditions, it is those gallerists who proactively seek creative and innovative responses to market conditions that are the most likely to remain profitable . Over the last couple of years a number of Australian gallery owners have reacted to the changing gallery scene by shutting physical gallery spaces in favour of trading online, through art fairs, or through temporary pop-up exhibitions.
Dianne Tanzer and Helen Gory have had a close relationship for many years and have been discussing ways to work together for some time now. The decision to utilise the strengths of each gallery and share resources to further develop the careers of the artists that each gallery represents can only be seen as a positive move.
“We have always shared ideas and experiences,” says Tanzer, whose stable of artists includes Juan Ford, Natasha Bieniek, Michael Cook and Izabela Pluta. “So this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to share our wealth of knowledge and expertise.”
The new space (the current Dianne Tanzer space) officially and ponderously bears the name THIS IS NO FANTASY, inspired by the neon-lit truisms of famed American artist Jenny Holzer.
“It’s both serious and playful, which reflects the spirit of THIS IS NO FANTASY,” offers Nicola Stein, director of Helen Gory Galerie, which represents the likes of Petrina Hicks, Jacqui Stockdale, Tai Snaith and Kate Tucker.
The title itself summons a new definition of the former sites, permitting directors Stein and Tanzer to pursue an updated and ambitious new exhibition program outside of the white cube model.
The venture will see select artists from Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects and Helen Gory Galerie come together for special exhibitions, projects, and art fair presentations. “THIS IS NO FANTASY” will not represent artists but will be a means of sharing gallery resources and bringing artists from each gallery together for collaborative projects and exhibitions. THIS IS NO FANTASY is a more efficient model for exhibiting internationally, and really bringing our strengths together,” says Tanzer of the project.
Both popular, influential and highly active spaces in their own right, Helen Gory Galerie and Dianne Tanzer will continue to promote and exhibit artists in Australia and internationally and retain their unique identities, while collaborating more closely on projects that are off the grid, such as art fairs, international exhibitions and experimental projects.
THIS IS NO FANTASY will continue with exhibitions in the Gertrude Street space, alternating with art fairs and interstate exhibitions. It will be showing at the Auckland Art Fair in August and Art Stage Singapore in January 2014.
THIS IS NO FANTASY
108–110 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy