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Sculpture with Photographic Components

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It is as if these images are on symbols for shards of smashed glass positioned on mock glasshouses or igloos; portions of memory locked into remnants of building frames that you have to move around in order to discover.



Holly Davies
This room, the sum of my memories (of you)
Curated by Arron Santry


3 November - 15 November 2011

I gasped when I first heard the name of this gallery. This venue, its name has got to be the prettiest, most evocative moniker ever. I’m profoundly impressed - for how can the art compete? There lies the challenge, even before artists step into the space.

But they have for some time now. This is Snake Pit’s fourth show - and so on the upper floor (using three rooms - two separated by a long, horizontal, slot window) Holly Davies presents six floor sculptures, and two wall works, skeletally angular geometric forms made of pine batons across which, on triangular or quadrilateral hardboard planes are fastened digital photographs. There are also two moving image projections integrated into the exhibition.

The hollow linear structures with braced panels look like collapsing card tables, half constructed diamonds, model planes or even playhouse / steepled churches. In the largest, innermost, third room, five such sculptures are elegantly spread out over the varnished wooden floor.

Davies is an Auckland-based photographer who has trained in Melbourne, and Santry a very capable curatorial intern currently working at ARTSPACE. Davies’ angular-shaped photographs on these constructivist-derived sculptures tend to have a pale bleached quality and examine qualities of harsh light. Indeed, with the projections of wispy smoke low in a corner, or moving tinted shadows across a non-panelled sculpture onto a far wall, light is the show’s dominant theme mixed with memories (as her title says) of brightly illuminated flowerbeds, grainy sun bronzed torsos, delicate curtain fabric, and bleary, indeterminately mottled, fuzzy patterns. It is as if these images are on symbols for shards of smashed glass positioned on mock glasshouses or igloos; portions of memory locked into remnants of building frames that you have to move around in order to discover.

Interestingly, as the sculptures vary in the number of panels they display, and the photographs in their subject matter (the wall images show a hand holding a smoking cigarette or enlarged brushstrokes painted onto film), there is a strong sense of continuing flux and arbitrary decision-making - deftly endorsing the show’s title and the spasmodic and involuntary nature of memory, despite the careful unrandom positioning of the geometric elements that collectively look very stylish.

The dramatic impact of this show though depends on the time (during the day) of your visit. There are a large number of windows in the space so the resulting natural light controls the impact of the moving image projections and the suspended floating quality of the panelled ‘fragments’. With too much ambient illumination the videos become excessively faint and the intended links between them and the images lost.

A catalogue containing a collection of b/w images connected to the photographs on the sculpture, and two poems from the artist and curator, accompanies this exhibition. The tone of the writing is more subjective and less clinical than the sculpture, being evocatively impressionistic and quite intimate. (One image page presents the trope of curator and artist as a dancing couple). Literally darker than the array of sculpture/photographs, this clip of organic images and text offsets the crystalline brittleness of the more bodily installation, not having the equivalent lightness of touch (‘lightness’ as metaphor), and being slightly emotive and earnest. Without it the airy exhibit could appear understated, but with it such restraint might be seen as preferable.

John Hurrell


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