Making it up
The artworks showing at the Sketch exhibition at the Smith Studio gallery look surprisingly polished given they are supposed to be ‘unfinished.’ This might be due to the fact that most are framed - aside from Rosie Mudge’s etchings and Danielle Paul’s playful line of colour blocks evoking different moods in different locations. The only artworks that come close to parading superficially tentative lines are Io Makandal’s drawings presenting layers of diverse coloured lines seemingly obeying a centrifugal force. But even in the world of handdrawn abstract art her series could be passed off as a finished work. As the title of the show might suggest the works are preparations for other future works and therefore might not be incomplete in or of themselves.
The brave premise for this exhibition was set by curator/gallerist Amy Ellenbogen. It made sense given the Smith Studio gallery supports young artists at the nascence of their careers. She wanted to create a platform where artists could be given the space to experiment and take steps towards making new works, encouraging a process-based practice. By this she means to advance a form of art making and curating where there is less emphasis on the end product - a less results driven approach, though the artworks need to sell remains the outcome. It is that old tricky balancing act; weighing artistic freedom against commercial imperatives. Ellenbogen has either found a productive loop-hole, where every part of the art making process can be displayed and admired and true experimentation can flourish despite commercialisation, or this simply signals another way of commodifying art that could further anesthetise creativity. Fact is, however, artists love to perform for an audience and a show such as this probably fires them up and allows them to dream a little and explore possibilities beyond their reach.
Take Matty Roodt’s maquettes for sculptures made from found concrete with brass ‘branches’ mirroring trees. They are studies for life size sculptures she would like to place along a highway. Dale Lawrence’s study for a ceramic sculpture could be made, but as the drawing functions as an artwork in its own right, you have to wonder when ‘art’ becomes ‘art’.
The exhibition presents different forms of incompletedness, if you will. Antonia Brown’s installation of photographs are the first manifestation of her interest in dowsing. Brown sees parallels between photography and dowsing – both activities rely on a device to reveal hidden phenomena. As a young art graduate Brown is following her intuition but she has not clearly resolved how to engage with her fixation for dowsing.