These three artists in some way explore the myth of progress, inviting us to determine our place in the enculturated mythology of the present and the past. The “myth of progress”, a term borrowed from Anthropologist Bruno Latour, reminds us that we are all part of a larger body politic, which exists as a feature of an enculturated landscape. We embody our own cultures through an enculturated self, in every pore and cell of our being.
These three Artists self-examine, and examine the world around them – in an act of anthropological investigation, inviting us to untangle our own comprehension of and complicity in the functions of the wider world. Do we believe in the myth of progress, or do we feel entitled to challenge and unpack these notions? Gilbert Grace, Joan Ross, and David Watson invite us to join them in exploring our own cultures as if we are our own anthropologists, untangling the illusions and power structures that determine our place in the world. The future is always transitioning, always in flux – it is not yet set in stone. In this transitional state, guided by these artists and many others like them, we are given a passport to visit a notional place that emboldens a community with curiosity and the capacity to declare their vision for their future.
Gilbert Grace is a considered artist. Through his paintings he elaborates the connections between our personal functionality in the world, and the functions of the wider world. The strokes of his paintings weave together to create surfaces which resonate like connective tissue – from the body of the individual to the body of the world. His paintings place each individual in the body of the enculturated world, drawing out the interplay of our political landscapes and power structures. In Transitional, Gilbert’s selected work investigates power and desire in the sight lines of exploration, “discovery”, ownership, and responsibility. His wide lens scrutinizes the deeper meanings which give weight – a gravitas – to our connective tissue both within and without, allowing us to stay connected to the plight (historically and contemporaneously) of our place in the world.
David Watson’s work, in the words of the Artist “blends suburban terrains with evanescent memory.” His oeuvre is infused with an acute awareness of the signs of culture and power in the suburban landscape. David Watson’s filmic work Swimming Home is mesmeric, luring us into the movement – stroke by stroke of the swimmer, David Watson himself. We are immersed even more fully – into the beating heart, the connective tissue of ‘country.’ His swim formed the return leg of a suburban pilgrimage, which had commenced with an inquisitive two-year meander on foot from Rozelle towards his childhood home in Brush Farm. His 2000 photographic series New South Wonderland was taken on the Artist’s return to Australia after a number of years away. Interestingly he utilised his fresh view of Australia, actively choosing to blur his images. By softening the harsh Australian light and structured form in his photographs, David releases their cultural potency, turning the semiotics of the every day into curios, assisting us to reimagine the present moment.
In BBQ This Sunday, BYO, Artist Joan Ross plays with absurd disjuncture’s and disruptions on a stage set borrowed from convict painter Joseph Lycett; transported to Australia for the crime of forgery. Ross appropriates one of Lycett’s paintings, and it is assumed that if anyone would understand this re-appropriation of his work it would be a forger. Ross re-interprets Lycett’s18th Century view of the world and utilises it as a base for the interplay of intruding cultures and cultural forms, most overtly in the form of the safety conscious fluro work vest. A group of Aboriginals rest within Lycett’s 18th Century painted view (already a culture jam), and interweaves a story of overlays, ever expanding until the disjuncting cultures morph into a new state: a blur of this and that and the other thing. Ross depicts a transition, from calm landscape to crowded scene, and somehow animates the normalising quality of change. Perhaps Ross also speaks of the risk adverse society we now live in, that entraps so much of our creative force behind forms, fees and fear.
Bronwyn Tuohy, 2016