Standing under Merilyn Fairskye's neo-Gothic technicolour monstrosities
I am becoming increasingly impatient waiting for a bus. Her public sculptures
dominate the new central bus terminal like phallocentric totems dedicated
to the glorification of Sydney's all pervasive gentrification. Here there
is nowhere to even sit. An homage to the transitory Fairskye's pieces
are nevertheless composed of the most lasting and monumental of materials.
Apparently representative of the four elements they also represent the
most innocuous of new age symbolisms. In this instance the only difference
between the aforementioned elements is the arbitrary colour ascribed
them. One is red, two blue, the other orange, yet in each instance their
physical form remains blankly the same. Ultimately there is no difference
as corporate expenditure seeks uniformity and compliance as we wait open
mouthed with awe for the coming millennium. Under the awkward weight
of these monuments, individual desire palls. Where is the fucking bus?!@#$*&!
Also transitory, Sydney's artist run spaces continue to disappear at an alarming
rate. Some luckily reappear yet attrition and the obsession with New York-style
loft apartments continues unabated. Exactly who will inhabit this multitude of
domestic compartments I am unsure. Mainly tourists I would guess. I wonder then
what will happen to these `living' spaces after the coming unmentionable
sporting event. If your best-loved gallery isn't an apartment yet, it will be
soon. Such is the case with one of my favourite spaces, South, formerly of Surry
Hills. South promises to relocate somewhere in the future, but neither I nor
its voluntary director, Simon Barney, know exactly when or where. I visited Barney's
recent exhibition at South with enthusiasm hoping that the vaguely mysterious
activities I had occasionally witnessed in his adjoining studio might once and
for all be revealed. With this in mind I recalled glimpses of cheesily rendered
bikini-clad women superimposed over references to hard-core Modernist painting
with the occasional cartoon speech bubble bearing some drollery thrown in. Needless
to say in this instance I was not disappointed. The most striking and strident
image depicted in Barney's latest exhibition however was of a monkey headed sculptor
and his equally simian offspring gathered around a Brancusi-esque totem. It was
all pretty turgid and grotesque in an urbane and compelling way. Barney is fully
and gleefully aware of his aesthetic transgressions. Sadly and unfortunately
for Sydney's residents the previous artist is not.
Big Daddy and the Kids
Also at South Gianni Wise presented us with a set of cheeky concertina post cards.
These ran vertically down the walls, arranged touristically and all for sale;
get four for ten dollars or an entire strip of twelve for twenty-two ninety-five.
Surely a bargain for high art! I was drawn to these images for their commonplace
banality and repetition. Look there, it's the back of a Bondi bus and there's
Newtown's local Turkish pizza parlour decked entirely in wood-grain laminex!
Here, the luminous multi-colour `Map World' of St Peters, and there the silhoutte
of an anonymous telegraph pole tethered with coiling electrical cables. Further
down there's an image of a pile of tyres -- obviously a reference to that guru
of tedious `60s happenings, Allan Kaprow. I'm not quite sure if I recognize the
workman standing proudly atop a lurid red recycling skip. However I understand
Wises' image of a herd of sheep trammelling dust clouds to be a tribute to our
glorious rural and farming traditions. I'm keen to see more of this stuff. I
like its discursive and textual qualities and its play on increasingly outdated
representational modes. Wise however is no techno-slob! He has manipulated many
of these images via Photoshop, in some instances pumping the colours to full
saturation for their kitsch value whilst in others, colour has been completely
abandoned and the images solarised to a state of precarious linearity. This is
what our city needs more of, hand-made interventions dissimulated through references
to popular culture. Perhaps this would provide some antidote to the tacky grandiosima
that has befallen our economically obsessed metropolis.
Also hand-made were Simon Cavanaugh's suspended pumps at Project 11 (a.k.a.
Window, a.k.a. CBD etc.) I arrived at Cavanaugh's opening early having
bumped into him
the previous week in the street. Here he informed me of the adhesive he was
about to purchase in order to complete this particular work. It had some
name I have since forgotten, something like `Zippy' or `Zap'. He told me it
was super-fast drying and even stronger than Super Glue. "I'll have to remember
this for future reference", I thought. Occasionally though my mind is
like a sieve. Like a dysfunctional piece of machinery and like Cavanaugh's
my mind expands and contracts, (metaphorically of course) garnering information,
often unintentionally discarding it as quickly.
Suspended one in front of the other, Cavanaugh's sculptures are composed of truncated
grey plastic plumbing pipes. From these numerous hoses protrude some trailing
over the floor. One reaches as far as the gallery's shop-front window where a
fleshy rubber bladder labours to `breathe' sandwiched under a fractured sheet
of glass. I got really sick of hearing the word `Grunge' touted about like a
reference to the holy grail of aestheticism. I'm glad people here have stopped
using it. Cavanaugh's work nevertheless references the G word, defying it at
the same time through its sheer attention to detail. I admire Cavanaugh's experiments
and am convinced of his extraordinary patience as he scours hardware stores near
and far to find exactly the right component for his non-functional functioning
machines. In place of those components he simply cannot locate he substitutes
disobedient parts whose purpose he distorts and adapts to his own ambiguous ends.
Nothing will stop him. I can see him locked in his garage tinkering away, the
intermittent respiratory and peristaltic sounds of his contraptions causing all
manner of heresay to disseminate through the city, amongst his friends and contemporaries.
He emerges at last to slightly suspicious greetings. Everyone is eager to see
what these things will do! Having witnessed their motions, still no one
is really sure. Some may doubt his sanity. At least they know Cavanaugh has a
day job to keep him in line.