Sally Simpson, Rachel Theodorakis: Journeys. Grainger Gallery. Until March 20, 2021. graingergallery.com.au.
The combined works of Sally Simpson and Rachel Theodorakis in Journeys form an elegant ensemble whose minimal (essentially) black and white palette belies its conceptual and aesthetic complexity. Sally Simpson's Journey takes two paths. The first - A Poem of the Sea - is a graphic one; the second - Fragile Equilibrium - a sculptural one. The drawings that constitute A Poem of the Sea continue the artist's exploration of that highly variable medium's capacity to be not only a vehicle for expressing and recording the artist's thoughts and reactions to place, but to be simultaneously a kind of thought process. Drawing for Simpson is an exposition of the possibilities of an idea or thought, and an exploratory end in itself. It is both analysis and reflection. The processes Simpson uses in her imaginative inventions extol notions of multiplicity and continual processes of discovery, development and definition, realised through, for example, erasure, manipulation or redrawing, processes that mirror the accumulation of experiences the artist brings to the motifs that constitute her drawings' subject matter.
In the exhibition the complexity of Simpson's relationship with the natural world and here specifically the sea is given layered and considered iteration. The processes of drawing and the overt celebration of these are powerfully exemplified in When we whisper together, a graphic tour de force, nuanced and seductive in its masterly presentation. In this work the notion of "immanence", a constant in her art, adds an intellectual edge that is at once powerful and interrogative. The artist's control of the graphic medium in all its subtleties is clear.
Alongside the suite of framed works, three works comprised of layers of drafting film occupy an entire wall. The images on these are done in graphite. The marks are lightly configured, but as they appear on each layer the artist is able to convey a sense of depth while intimating the internal relationships that bring visual and conceptual coherence to the overall work. Each sheet of film sits off centre against its upper partner. A strict linear presentation is thus subverted and the lyrical rhythms of the plant-like protagonists quietly underscored. These works are beautifully subtle in the elision of concept, process and expression of the artist's internal and external dialogues. The reality of the layering cleverly reflects the imaginative layering that has gone into their making.
In Fragile Equilibrium, Simpson presents a series of mixed media (mostly bone) sculptures whose purpose, according to the artist, "is to intercede with the natural world". Each has the look of some form of large, primitive reliquary. The use of bone and other found materials imbues a tribal, totemic character. The various components are harmoniously blended. The blending, though, allows each element (as in Simpson's drawings) to hold their identity while contributing to the whole, they are simultaneously a part of and apart from that whole. Simpson's enigmatic contemporary totems hold within them traces of the natural world and by extension, traces of the artist's interactions with that world.
While Sally Simpson's work is concerned with slow disclosure, Rachel Theodorakis's four series of wrapped sculptures speak of enclosure. Her work is divided into Twenty-twenty, Shrine of edification, Nurture series, and Eleutheria (Freedom). The series are united through the artist's use of animal bones and (for the most part), the wrapping of these in black cotton rope. The works are displayed very effectively taking advantage of the Gallery's 2 levels and the light that flows in through the windows on the Gallery facade. A sense of gravitas pervades the work, yet it is tempered by the infusion of a powerful dose of the enigmatic. Viewers need to read each work's caption to discover what lies beneath the surface. The scale of much of the work invests a comforting sense of intimacy that diminishes the "darkness" of the black cotton.
These exhibitions are special and considered viewing of both will be visually, aesthetically and intellectually rewarding.
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