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Drawing / Architecture Nexus

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Roland Snooks, AgentBody Prototype 2015, cut steel, aluminium, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh Roland Snooks, AgentBody Prototype 2015 (detail), cut steel, aluminium, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh arah Treadwell, Oceanic Foundations: Rising Water 1, 2014, mixed media on unstretched canvas, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh Sarah Treadwell, Oceanic Foundations: Rising Water 2, 2014, mixed media on unstretched canvas, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh Sarah Treadwell, Oceanic Section 1 & 2, 2014-5, mixed media on unstretched canvas, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh Simon Twose, detailed view of Concrete Drawing, 2014-5, concrete, polystyrene, wax, photographs and graphite, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh Simon Twose, detailed view of Concrete Drawing, 2014-5, concrete, polystyrene, wax, photographs and graphite,, as installed at Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi. Photo: Shaun Waugh

The act of encounter between artwork and viewer encouraged by the work of Twose, Snooks and Treadwell is particularly well highlighted by the placement of each piece within the distinctive architecture of the Adam. Whilst these works may be neither drawings nor buildings in the strictest sense of either term, they each prompt an engagement not only with these creative processes themselves, but the ways in which we encounter them in our daily lives - if we choose to look closely.

Wellington

 

Roland Snooks, Sarah Treadwell, Simon Twose
Drawing Is/Not Building
Curated by Simon Twose

 

25 April - 28 June 2015

Designed by Ian Athfield, the Adam Art Gallery’s sequence of distinct and vertically interlocking spaces are perhaps the ideal location for an exhibition exploring the relationship between drawing and architecture. The combination of long narrow galley-like spaces, viewing platforms, multi-storey spatial voids, and open central staircase, work to create an environment in which the gallery’s architecture influences our viewing experience as much as the artworks themselves.

Thoughtfully curated to utilise the unique architecture of the Adam itself, Drawing Is/Not Building focuses our attention as spectators not only on the tangible objects in front of us, but also the built context within which we encounter them.

Ronald Snooks’ AgentBody Prototype (2015), intends to explore the “possibilities offered by the shared authorship of human and computer” (1) and comprises both the completed sculptural form, and a video documenting its creation. The monochromatic documentation of process from computer generated image, through close-up abstractions of the work in progress to finished product creates a desire to observe the materialisation of form without necessarily requiring any technical understanding.

The complex structural form, created from a dense interconnection of cut steel and aluminium, is almost impossible to view in full from any one angle. It invites more attentive inspection, forces us to view closely through the overlaid forms and gaps, and in doing so initiates a physical interaction between viewer, object and place. Cleverly, the windows which flank the jutting corner of the building in which AgentBody Prototype has been placed, remain uncovered. We can see through the sculpture to the red brick and glass of the University beyond, the architecturally built environment expanding as our focus contracts. The vast three-dimensionality of the work forces us to move around the object, into the window space itself, and we can’t help but become aware of our visibility to those on the outside looking in. Our body becomes an additional agent in conjunction with the sculpture, framed by the building for those passing by.

The remainder of the space upstairs is filled by the drawn works of Sarah Treadwell, which at first glance appear to embody a more conventional engagement with the drawing process than the more sculptural works of Snooks and Twose. However, the experimental nature of these works, in terms of both technique and subject matter, betray a more complex layering of thought and process than are initially apparent. Taking the Pacific Ocean as the constantly shifting foundational base for a type of geographical and historical mapping, Oceanic Foundations: Rising Water 1 and 2 (2014-5) were created with John Pusateri through a multi-stage process. As the wall label tells us “The works trace the repetitive rise of tidal water through a repulsion of oil. Initially drawn from a lithographic residue, the images were translated into an enlarged drawing, layered into a digital image, further translated into a cutting file before being inscribed onto polycarbonate plates with a CNC router. The entangled images were finally hand printed in positive and negative versions.” (2)

Whilst the process here is intriguing, it is the images which make up Oceanic Section 1 and 2 (2014-5) which I find the most aesthetically effective. The pair of unstretched canvases are fixed to the gallery wall along their upper edges only, and hang loosely, their frayed edges exposed and vulnerable. A depth of surface texture has been created by Treadwell through the application of multiple layers of paint, each being allowed to break to the surface at various points across the canvas. Wide exaggerated brushstrokes stretch paint thinly to create a rippled topography, thick crusts of paint weigh heavy upon the canvas, warping its shape. The greyness gradually dissipates before us as areas of rusty orange and deep inky navy bleed into our vision. The longer we look, the richer the visual material becomes and the more evident the hand of the artist - in one area, light spots break up an area of brownish orange in a way that suggests the physical trace of fingertips pushing into the paint to lift it from the canvas.

Moving downstairs we find Simon Twose’s Concrete Drawing (2015), which occupies the entire space in various forms: a sequence of photographs, a series of intricate wax models, and the vast Concrete Drawing itself. Like Snooks’ work upstairs, it provokes a simultaneous urge to see the whole, whilst at the same time attempting to focus closely on individual details. The photographs mounted on the Staircase Gallery wall are a case in point - made up of hundreds of separate photographs it would take an inordinate amount of time to closely view each image. These photographs document the creation of the physical Concrete Drawing and include computer generated models, line drawings, photographs of industrial materials, handwritten notes, workshop interiors - the list could go on. The proliferation of images seems to expand as we pay closer attention, the fear of missing some vital clue preventing us from turning our back too soon. Perhaps if we did, we would miss the human element. We find photographs of hands engaged in acts of physical creation; a young girl looks out at us with her gloved hands submerged in a wheelbarrow of wet concrete. These are reminders that architecture, despite its technological and industrial connotations, is a creative endeavour centred upon the fulfilment of universal human needs.

This interaction between the built environment and its human occupants is reinforced as we move into the Lower Chartwell Gallery which is almost completely filled by the vast concrete expanse of this work. Enough space has been left for the viewer to walk around the entire piece, and in doing so we can explore the rich textural possibilities of the medium. The simple application of clusters of rectangular “little walls,” (3) fixed vertically, horizontally and diagonally into the large base slab of concrete cast dark shadows, evoking miniature abstract model cities. Forced into the narrow gap between Concrete Drawing and the walls of the Adam itself, we become as conscious of our own presence in the space as we are of the concrete structure.

The act of encounter between artwork and viewer encouraged by the work of Twose, Snooks and Treadwell is particularly well highlighted by the placement of each piece within the distinctive architecture of the Adam. Whilst these works may be neither drawings nor buildings in the strictest sense of either term, they each prompt an engagement not only with these creative processes themselves, but the ways in which we encounter them in our daily lives - if we choose to look closely.

Kirsty Baker

(1) http://www.adamartgallery.org.nz/
(2) Wall Label, Drawing Is/Not Building, Adam Art Gallery
(3) Wall Label, Drawing Is/Not Building, Adam Art Gallery

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