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Jill McIntosh’s ‘Handless’ Charcoal Drawings

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Installation of Jill McIntosh, Shifting Field, 2023, charcoal on Lanaquarelle paper. Photo by Victoria Baldwin Jill McIntosh, Shifting Field, 2023, detail,  charcoal on Lanaquarelle paper. Photo by Victoria Baldwin Jill McIntosh, Shifting Field, 2023, detail,  charcoal on Lanaquarelle paper. Photo by Victoria Baldwin Installation of Jill McIntosh's Transitional Acts at Te Wai Ngutu Kākā Gallery, Gallery Two. Somatic Inference is in the foreground. Photo by Victoria Baldwin. Jill Mcintosh, Chalk Suspension 11 and 11, 2023, pastel and acrylic paint on canvas. Photo by Victoria Baldwin. Installation of Jill McIntosh's Transitional Acts at Te Wai Ngutu Kākā Gallery, Gallery Two. Somatic Inference is in the foreground. Photo by Victoria Baldwin. Jill McIntosh, Relational Flow, 2023, vinyl on glass. Photo by Victoria Baldwin. Jill McIntosh, Black Rift, intaglio print, charbonnel black ink on Lanaquarelle Hanne mule cotton rag paper. Photo by Victoria Baldwin

McIntosh's installation features two narrow oblong 'drawing' trays ('Somatic Inference') with pump and tubing, where the oily liquid containing suspended particles of ground charcoal is being channelled back and forth, so that the reflected images are constantly changing. Coincidentally (maybe planned) the speckled textures of the liquid beautifully repeat the black and grey aggregate of the concrete floor, while the trays can symbolically be taken for baths, lilos or domestic beds—referencing sleep, or dream-states.

Auckland

 

Jill McIntosh
Transitional Acts


22 September - 4 November 2023

In Gallery Two of the recently renamed Te Wai Ngutu Kākā Gallery, Jill McIntosh—a doctorate candidate—presents, within an installation, a grid of 51 charcoal drawings on one wall (and partly round a corner). These large oozy organic drawings (Shifting Field) are gestural and gritty, and made by the paper sheets being horizontally dipped into a metal tray holding finely crushed charcoal (along with a pinch of graphite and chalk) dissolved in liquid—touching the top but not really immersed.

She waits until the fluid has stopped swirling, so an oily cellulose skin can settle on the surface of the water and coalesce. She then carefully lowers the paper plane so it can pick up the floating runny, sludgy and sprinkly watery and oily charcoal traces.

On the end walls. there are also an uber-dark print (Black Rift) (combining intaglio and mezzotint processes) and two paintings (Chalk Suspension 1 and 11) (featuring ground green, purple and ochre pastel mixed with methodically brushed on thin grey acrylic as binder). While these are like the remarkable charcoal drawings—where standing very close is essential for detecting the qualities of fluid, spotty and granular textured surface—the matte ink, pastel and acrylic works are less organic or random, and visually more like weaving in their detectable processual structure.

McIntosh’s installation features two narrow oblong ‘drawing’ trays (Somatic Inference) with pump and tubing, where the oily liquid containing suspended particles of ground charcoal is being channelled back and forth, so that the reflected images are constantly changing. Coincidentally (maybe planned) the speckled textures of the liquid beautifully repeat the black and grey aggregate of the concrete floor, while the trays can symbolically be taken for baths, lilos or domestic beds—referencing sleep, in particular the artist’s fertile unconscious or dream-states—or each rectangular section a separated portion of expansive oceanic uber-thought.

Scattered throughout the installation, on the floor, are what seem initially to be large lumps of coal, 3D printed enlarged replicas of chunks of charcoal, Particulate Matter, now rendered in shiny black plastic that now cannot make marks—like the now constantly moving liquid in the trays which needs to be motionless to be ‘creative’.

Maybe here the artist is advocating a withdrawal (away from ‘action’) or a silent stillness to enable examining creative possibilities through contemplative reflection.

Ironically then, while there is an implied freneticism within the ‘handless’ wavy drawings, the show espouses a motion-loaded process that (as an installation with ‘frozen’ 3D printed elements) also symbolically incorporates a ‘pause’ button: a kind of metaphorical spanner dropped into the gear wheels of the title’s ‘transition’; a spinning descending tool that abruptly stops the flowing of the charcoal-liquid in order to create the gorgeous grit and wash-embedded configurations.

One other work, a band of transparent yellow film (Relational Flow) that descends down a narrow part of the very large street front window, casts diffuse delicate light across the floor and walls, chromatically disturbing the exhibits—sometimes glistening on the shiny plastic pieces of ‘charcoal’.

Changing position, intensity and shape by the minute, it—unlike the charcoal specks and clusters in the trays—is never trapped. Restless, yet on a predictable trajectory, it is emotionally piercing-discreetly disrupting an intriguing, basically greyish, display. The slow speed of its movement is a perfect intermediary foil to the churning motion in the trays, and the constant stasis of the wall-lining drawings.

John Hurrell

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