Art is shaped by one’s personal sense of time and place. For all artists there is a moment when a body of work is completed and installed in an exhibition space which remains unique to that particular time and place. The work is never seen again in the same configuration.
The structure of this exhibition is a way of re-ordering works that have been seen before, a means of exploring the bonds of time and place, and the diversity of ideas from artist to artist. The exhibition seeks to bring into focus by comparison the developments of style and direction that can occur through the constant re-appraisal of one’s own work and of its position within a local cultural context.
The ten artists whose works comprise this exhibition were all highly visible in Melbourne during the mid-seventies, as emerging artists or as those already established at the vanguard of local art practice. They are all especially important to the development of recent local contemporary art, through their work and through the critical discourse that their work has always provoked. Each artist is represented by two works, or bodies of work, drawn from each ‘end’ of the arbitrary time scale. The works have been selected in consultation with the artists both for their personal significance and for their broader seminal value.
In the mid-seventies, Micky Allan as hand painting photographs, questioning the traditional role of photography and subject matter. Howard Arkley was making paintings which explored the music of John Cage, the link between sound and the mark. Rosalie Gascoigne held her first one-person exhibition in 1975 in Melbourne, emerging as an important artist whose work challenged the parameters of sculpture, painting, the found object and the art of the past. Elizabeth Gower’s hanging collages actively engaged the debate concerning the fame sensibility, with their extraordinary sensual, sexual presence.
Having explored aspects of abstraction and conceptual art, Dale Hickey returned to the formality of realism – landscape and still life – which has remained the basis for later works, viewed with an abstractionist sensibility. Robert Hunter’s tape installations questioned the cause of the precious art object. Bea Maddock’s prints ranged across historical political imagery to personalised autobiographical images. John Nixon was a major exponent of Art Language, which created a provocative and dynamic dialogue between the artist and his audience. Peter Tyndall’s first one-person exhibition comprised a series of paintings of uniform size, hung in a very particular way to pose questions about the works of art and its relationship to the viewer. These questions remain at the centre of his practice. Jenny Watson’s early portrait paintings broached the division between the subject (the figure) and the concerns of minimal art.
The later works in the exhibition provide a means of exploring the journey that each artist has taken in developing his or her particular path, and the impact of time, and the shifts in place and style that have resulted. Some of the artists have switched medium; often there is a change in scale or content. But the underlying structure which informs the work remains constant.
Melbourne, October, 1987.