Art review: Verbatim by Chris Carmody

Art review: Verbatim by Chris Carmody

Chris Carmody: Verbatim

ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson

Closes February 22, open Wed-Sun, noon-5pm

Artist Chris Carmody may only be in his 20s, but his exhibiting career is in the fast lane, with Verbatim his sixth solo exhibition.

The show is characterised by a refined sensibility, heightened visual intelligence and humour. While all of life may end up in a book, the book itself, as a physical object, also has a life and can grow old and carry the scars of its passage through time. In this sense you can judge a book by its cover. Carmody, who has for many years worked in libraries to support his art habit, takes the library book as a point of departure in the exhibition. He appears fascinated with every aspect of the book as object, its cataloguing number, its title, the signs of wear on the spine and the cover, and particularly the discolouration and fading of covers through exposure to the harsh Australian light.

Each weathered surface is treated as a challenge and as a carrier of different forms of information. He responds to this challenge through an artistic manipulation of the surfaces. He also interrogates his book objects, through such things as their library call numbers (which form the titles of many of his works in this exhibition), their covers and the patterns of wear and fading on these covers which reflect the environment in which they have been preserved and the company which they have kept. Neighbours quite often seem to block out the light, so a ghostly impression is left of the book with which it was catalogued or of the shelf ends which pressed into them.

The two prevailing and interrelated themes in this body of work by Carmody are time, as an artistic and creative collaborator, and entropy, as an information theory in which uncertainty and randomness may be measured within a closed system, in which a thousand bits of information can be perceived within a single object. The various meanings of entropy were particularly popular in the discussion of the visual arts in the 1970s, with the publication of Rudolf Arnheim's influential book Entropy and art: An essay on Order and Disorder and with artists, including Robert Smithson, arguing that they sought to embrace entropy as a creative force in their work.

Carmody's distilled collaborations with chance and faded books produce beautiful, aesthetic objects which possess both presence and physicality. Through painting, drawing and collage, these images of library books are transformed and now seem to belong to a new and different reality. It is a strong and probing exhibition which both amuses and delights.

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