Featuring the work of Sharon Goodwin, Julia Gorman, James Lynch, Tim
McMonagle, Andrew McQualter, Ricky Swallow, and DAMP.
Why make art by yourself when you can have much more fun with your friends? Eschewing the traditional role of the artist as the angst ridden, garret-dwelling individualist, Australian artists seem more prone to congregate in packs than their New Zealand equivalents, with recent showings at The Physics Room by collectives G3, KIT, First Floor, and Textbase in the last two years alone. Based in Melbourne, the four core members of Rubik - James Lynch, Andrew McQualter, Julia Gorman and Ricky Swallow - have exhibited and curated in alternative spaces throughout Australia, as well as publishing a series of books showcasing the work of Australian and New Zealand artists. Going against the grain of much contemporary installation art, Rubik emphasise the qualities of drawing and 2D imagery in their practice, often in large-scale works which utilize the very space itself, drawing and painting onto gallery walls and floor.
Drawing on pop cultural references as diverse as One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and childrens fairy tales, the works in this show were both playful and explorative. Using DIY home decorating techniques, James Lynch transformed a white wall into wood panelling for Are You Experienced? against which small paintings were hung in the manner of hunting trophies or animal skins, but with a suburban twist - a brightly coloured sparrow, a fast car, rendered in the rather painstaking fashion of a Sunday painter.
Also applied directly to the surfaces of gallery walls, work by both Andrew McQualter and Julia Gorman appeared as diagrams or blueprints for some suggested action. Gormans abstracted, geometric shapes hint at patterns for some technological masterpiece, or perhaps a birds-eye mapping of the rhyzomatic structures of a city. McQualter offered more specific instructions in his sprawling construction, presenting a flowchart of the processes, and reasons, for art making.
Ricky Swallow, fresh from winning Australias Contempora5 Art Award for 1999, exhibited a life-size homemade turntable which played records via a sewing needle stylus inserted into a picnic paper cup. Like Lynchs work, Swallows turntable had the meticulous construction of a keen enthusiast, and was accompanied by a how to video, to educate the uninitiated into the subtle mores of DJ culture.
Elaborate fantasy creatures and the seductive world of Hollywood were represented by drawings and photographs by Tim McMonagle and Julia Gorman. Gormans larger than life coreflute reproductions of childrens tales swung like mobiles from the gallery ceiling, while McMonagle displayed snapshots of the artist standing in an airport arrival lounge, holding up signs in the manner of a car hire agent, each scrawled with the name of an actor from classic movie The Magnificent Seven.
DAMP, a further (sub) collective offered models for communal behaviour in three videos which endlessly looped. A loose grouping of ten artists, and formed while all members were fellow students, DAMPs initial project from that time involved the establishment of an art school cheerleading group, created to promote a sense of achievement and worth in fellow students. However, such noble ideals seemed to have been turned on their head by the first of the videos shown in Are You Experienced? Featuring raw documentation of a performance staged at 200 Gertrude Street in Melbourne, and promoted as a group show of DAMP ceramic work, members are seen infiltrating the opening crowd, engaging in small interactions with each other which are rife with tension. These apparently random disputes build, culminating in the entire collective brawling in the midst of the artwork, smashed plates and wine glasses abounding galore. Audience members can be seen looking on, their faces a mixture of excitement and embarrassment.
Much in the way in which traditional drawing becomes a tool for the development and refinement of initial ideas, to be ultimately resolved in the medium of oil on canvas, the works in Are You Experienced? can all be read as maquettes or manuals for some further action or process. From McQualters complicated diagrams to DAMPs explanatory videos aiding good behaviour, Are You Experienced? offered support and advice for the culturally confused.
Emma Bugden was the General Manager of The Physics Room and quite the performance artist.