Various artists: Unfinished Business. Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gorman Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Ave, Braddon. Tuesday to Saturday 11am-5pm. Until July 27.
It is an open secret that Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) is on the move and will shortly abandon its long-established venue at Gorman Arts Centre and will cross the lake into premises only a stone's throw from the National Gallery of Australia.
Even the best-laid plans suffer last minute hitches and an administrative problem has delayed the move and consequently an unexpected slot appeared in the exhibition calendar at the old venue. The enterprising Program Manager at CCAS, Alexander Boynes, at short notice, saw this as an opportunity to slot in an exhibition, which he has named 'Unfinished business'.
The exhibition is united by a common institutional link, the ANU School of Art and Design, and by the fact that none of the three artists has apparently exhibited at CCAS before. Nigel Lendon is an artist and administrator who, after many years at the school, has retired; Peter Alwast, whom I generally associate with the Brisbane art scene and the crossover of analogue and virtual picture space, has fairly recently been appointed as the school's head of painting and Rebecca Mayo, a very distinguished printmaker from Melbourne, has been appointed as a lecturer in printmaking.
One of the most intriguing exhibits in the show is Mayo's installation Bound by Gorse (2017). Gorse, or Ulex europaeus, was brought to Australia from England or Scotland in the early 19th century as a hedge plant and as an ornamental plant, but quickly the spiny shrub spread to form impenetrable thickets.
Mayo has been collecting gorse on the banks of Merri Creek, near where she lives in Melbourne, for a number of years. In 2013, she walked the length of the creek from its source in the Heathcote Junction through to its confluence with the Yarra at Abbotsford, collecting gorse along the way. She has used the plants as her source material for a papermaking process, drying them and pressing them into paper bricks. These she has stamped with the postcodes of the areas through which she moved. In Bound by Gorse, these enigmatic bricks form a boundary blocking our access and breaking the natural environment.
Mayo's Plastic bags (2019) and Escape route: Melbourne to Canberra (2018) employ silk and cotton textiles that are dyed with natural dyes, such as gorse flowers or Argyle apple leaves, that create boundaries and pathways defined by vegetation.
Alwast's four exhibits with the evocative titles In the evening, In Blue, Finance Tower and Bank Tower, all of 2018, play with ideas of collage and the bringing together of irreconcilable real and imaginary elements in terms of shape and space. Seductive and enchanting, they leave the viewer with a range of polarities and the challenge to reconcile them.
Lendon's minimalist constructions have not substantially changed over the past half-century. His Even. And. But. Also, in elegant powder-coated steel, originally made in 1969 and reassembled this year, is the highlight of his contribution to this exhibition.
Unfinished Business is an engaging exhibition that in various ways challenges the beholder.