'Pattern and Effect', Brendan Van Hek. Canberra Glassworks. On until March15.
Brendan Van Hek is a Perth artist who graduated from Curtin University, Western Australia in 2001. He is now based in Sydney.
Since graduating Van Hek has been very active professionally and has exhibited widely in Australia in galleries as diverse as the Turner Galleries in WA, TarraWarra Museum of Art in Victoria and the Anna Schwartz and Sarah Cottier galleries in Sydney.
He has also exhibited and worked overseas in New Zealand, the United States and Canada.
In 2016 he had a residency at the Canberra Glassworks where he worked in close collaboration with Canberra Glassworks artists in order to explore new directions in his work.
Van Hek has always been associated with working in glass and neon. He became interested in the potential of neon lighting and illuminated signage when he first experienced it as part of the nocturnal cityscapes of Perth.
He was also intrigued by the fluorescent lighting used in the neighbouring industrial areas. It was the fluidity of this light and its unique luminosity that he found attractive and prompted him to use salvaged neon in early works he called neon drawing.
In Canberra, artists like the late Neil Roberts (1954-2002) worked with neon and glass. Roberts would have related to Van Hek's interest in neon in the context of cityscapes.
Roberts' declared intention for his 1998 Canberra Playhouse neon sculpture House Proud that ran around the outside of the building, was to enhance the cityscape.
Perhaps he would have also been in sympathy with Van Hek's artist statement "I am interested in the constant way things keep occurring, keep going around and how one thing just seeps into another: the way things inform each other".
In Van Hek's earlier work he used discarded furniture and objects to investigate the spatial potential of the domestic interior. In this exhibition Van Hek's interest is to investigate the effects of patterns in creating ambiguous ways of seeing spatial relationships.
To this end Van Hek has brought the whole gallery space into play. The disparate elements include two carpets Test Patterns Blue 1&2 and a mirror (Sightline) as well as the painted floor in the Smokestack.
The two carpets have blue lines across them changing the perception of the texture of the carpet and their thickness. The large oval mirror on the opposite wall to the neon works is banded across its lower area denying our illusion of being able to enter the interior space reflected on its surface.
Van Hek's two neon sculptures Turquoise and Orange Inverse and Red and White Inverse are each squares of neon light. The squares are created by a sinuous wavy linear border that turns in on itself.
The neon tubes are in controlled repetitive rhythmic patterns of either red or turquoise colours that alternate with white neon. This curving light acts as a frame to create a dark ambiguous interior space that questions the flatness of the wall.
The painted floor in the passage pre-empts the form of the neon sculpture in the Smokestack. Light Elevation is the major work of the exhibition bringing a sense of drama and excitement that the designed order of his other works do not have.
Van Hek's work suits the demanding space of the Smokestack. Light Elevation is constructed from intense and electrifying blue neon tubing that is attached on either side of a long beam that rises up from the floor of the entrance to the Smokestack at an angle to bisect its interior space.
Its beginning and its end are only thus revealed when you enter the space from the corridor.