Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pinning down the Intangible: Bronwyn Lace

Detail of Collapse (White Passage Out)

It’s a curious phenomenon that compels dancers to explore conditions that limit the body, writers to gravitate towards articulating states that cannot be verbalised and visual artists towards capturing things that escape the eye. Perhaps this is how artists test the boundaries of their respective disciplines, but it also tends to be the reason they have chosen them as tools of expression; if you are interested in what goes unsaid it seems logical that you would pursue a career in writing.

This theory may explain why the artist Bronwyn Lace is so interested in the invisible; that which the naked eye cannot detect, and, given she is a visual artist, bringing invisible matter into view. In other words, in her pursuit of tracing the invisible, she automatically creates situations where the unseen becomes visible. In a way, the quality she is chasing is transformed through her obsession, into the very thing that interests her the least. It’s a contradiction for sure, but presumably one that holds her attention because she can never be released from it.

This may be why her latest exhibition, Resuscitate, seems partly concerned with not only shedding light on the invisible, but her idiosyncratic mode of arriving at this point – and toying with it. Underscoring Lace’s pursuit of the invisible is her vocabulary of invisibility, which includes her opaque materials; see-through perspex boards, fishing gut and light. A light fitting may be quite tangible, but light itself, particularly in relationship to the fishing gut lines that she characteristically suspends between the perspex boards, is an intangible “material”.

These materials cunningly create the illusion that her pursuit of the invisible doesn’t result in material objects, but ephemeral ones that seemingly don’t exist either. This may allow her to avoid the contradiction her obsession may entail at least superficially because, ultimately, it is the visual substance of her work. However, because the structure to hold the invisible and map it out is the only thing we can see, it becomes the object/subject of her work; in other words, the invisible/visible structure ends up |serving as a substitute for what the naked eye can’t see.

This exhibition presents installations that have been collapsed. The perspex boards are sandwiched together and the fishing gut lines that would have been tautly suspended between them are crumpled into an entangled mass that protrudes from the perspex in the works Collapse (White Passage In) and Collapse (White Passage Out). In the works Collapse (Ascension) and Collapse (Golden Tunnel), Lace enacts the reverse process by “stretching” out the construction so that the fishing gut lines are suspended between the ceiling and the floor of the double volume of the Nirox Gallery.