ACT News


Art review: Debra Jurss: Flow reclaimed and Elaine Camlin: Micro-Worlds at Form

Flow reclaimed. By Debra Jurss. Micro-Worlds: Interpretations and Observation of Organic Forms. By Elaine Camlin. Form Studio and Gallery. 1/30 Aurora Ave, Queanbeyan. Until March 18.

Reviewed by: Peter Haynes

The first thing that strikes the viewer on entering Debra Jurss' exhibition is the feeling of the elision of light and space into a seductive atmospheric consolidation. The 18 wall and floor pieces are carefully dispersed throughout the gallery space creating an immersive experience that allows each work to hold its own space and to contribute to the exhibition as a whole.

Jurss continues her aesthetic explorations of the topographies of the Antarctic coast and other locales but with particular emphasis on the waters that border places. Her interest is in the movements that characterise the juxtaposition of the marine and the terrestrial. The sculptural works are also intimately concerned with the artist's emotional responses to the places depicted and to the way her moods are influenced by the spatial and rhythmical flows of water. To express these she has chosen to work in an essentially abstract mode but always allowing the inclusion and perhaps intrusion of the natural world into her expressive language.

The three-dimensional pieces are powerful and assured. Jurss presents these with a direct and overt frontality. In doing this she does not deny any two-dimensional elements but celebrates the contrast of opposites that the combination of two- and three-dimensional qualities holds. In Elation (Cat. 3) and Depth to the sky (Cat.4) swirling combinations of blue, redolent of waves and submarine movement, are embellished with vibrant and active gestural lines of white. The latter energise the internal expression, an energy cleverly echoed in the jagged edges of the forms in which they sit. While the edges may be read as topographical idiosyncrasies their broken rectalinearities are visually and conceptually very effective.


While blues and whites dominate in the exhibition, Jurss uses other colour combinations with dexterous understanding and skill. A little deeper (Cat. 7) is marked by eloquent swathes of green and white that pulsate rhythmically across and through the form. The sweeping bands hold somewhat ambiguous references to both the sea and the land. Ultimately, though, for the artist this does not matter. Her concern is with evocation and poetic response, not representation and physical data. In Dawning (Cat. 8) Jurss continues the eloquence of the preceding work, this time in colours that speak of the beginnings of the day. The sweeping gestural bands of purple express powerful internal energy flows. The stark linear verticality of the lateral edges literally "stops" the flow. However, these concurrently push it back into the work and in so doing create a beautifully effective spatial configuration, aesthetically and thematically

Jurss includes three transparent glass vases in the exhibition. The decoration on these is overtly concerned with Antarctic topographies. It is subtle and its embracing character underscores the forms in decorously happy combinations. Also included are eight framed works, either cyanotypes or photograms. These are soft and delicate with the abstract qualities of the natural forms and phenomena from which they emanate subtly dissimulated to the extent that the images appear as auras, imbued with a floating mystical quality that speaks of the artist's emotive responses to her subject-matter. A small niggle – the black frames do not fit with the work or with the overall light-filled environment that contributes to this exhibition's special character and appeal. Flow reclaimed is a beautiful exhibition. Jurss displays a mature aesthetic sensibility in her continuing explorations of the effects of the natural world on the individual's emotive responses to that world.

Elaine Camlin's Micro-Worlds is a very full exhibition, idiosyncratically displayed and requiring judicious editing. Much of the work holds a delicate and quiet beauty but the sheer number makes this difficult to enjoy. In Specimens of Organic Growth #0102 - #6364 (Cat. 1) individual images are pinned to the wall in a massed hang that is curiously disturbed by randomly placed and querulously empty spaces. Related to these, two artist books sit on a plinth below this overly full amalgamation. The book format contains images from the same "family" as those on the wall. The format works well especially given the scale and detail of each image. The ability to flip through a series reinforces the intimacy of the works and I suspect a similar intimacy is adopted by the artist in her approach to her subject-matter.  Several images are presented on plastic squares sitting on brass studs. These are ugly appurtenances that are not only intrusive but damage any intimacy that might be present,

Another massed hang is seen in the Discovering Unknown Objects series (Cat's 5 – 32). The scale of the image allied to the larger paper size (than in the previous works) assist the viewer in dealing with what so manifestly demands a diminution in number. A set of framed works are the best in the exhibition in the manner in which each highlights the imaginative forms depicted by the artist. Each image is given plenty of space both within and without the frame. This spatial generosity provides visual relief and the viewer is able to appreciate each work and consider the detail and finesse held by each without the interference of the surrounding works. Another set of framed works – Mapping Growth (Cat's 49 – 51) – is also assisted by considered spatial displacement.

Cat's 46 – 48 (Strata, Pseudofossils, Sedimentary Rocks) are presented in the manner of a scientific museum display. One looks down onto these in a glass-topped display box. The works are three-dimensionalised versions of (some of) the images on the walls. The specimen-like quality works well and is effective in this otherwise odd display. Micro-Worlds is characterised by the eccentricity of the approach to displaying the work adopted by the artist. The approach unfortunately negates the strength of much of the individual work . If we forget the whole and deal with the parts, there is much to appreciate here.