The Measured Room

Di Barrett, Mark Kimber, Deborah Paauwe, Toby Richardson Contemporary Art Centre of SA 1 October - 2 November 1997

The artists are four Adelaide photographers, professional colleagues and past graduates of the South Australian School of Art.
Thematically the artists share common ground of memory and revisit the sites of their own childhood and social histories. Re-looking at family photos retrieves a remembered past: photographic histories bookend specific moments which enable us to relive and retell stories about particular situations. Snagged in that mind-net, each of the artists subjectively recalls and speaks of heart-felt images from their childhood via the deductive process of memory.

Di Barrett presents an installation of home movie footage, ink-jet images, sound and painting in the Contemporary Art Centre's front gallery space. An ingenious, seemingly precarious traction/pulley device of 16mm film loop moves freely through calculated tensions existing between anchor pulley-points: projector-ceiling-floor. Visually it was somewhat like a traction device for orthopaedic fractures. Haunting, repetitious sounds (like a 'roarer' made from a string tied to a school ruler whirling violent threats) accompany the filmic image.

The scenario of Barrett's childhood home movie is a nothing-special backyard: a swing, two sisters playing, parents, family dog. Something of an ordinary suburban scene, but there's something strange about it as well... And hung suspended from ceiling to floor are five large ink-jet images on clear film. These colourised images of the handsome 1960s father, portraits of the sisters in dress-ups, sisters in bed with Mummy etc. were edited from Barrett's father's black and white family album collection. Behind the suspended transparencies, Barrett has splattered arcs of black paint onto the gallery wall. Her titles: Sunday Best, Best Behaviour, Bed of Roses, Keeping up appearances and Toeing the line, impact on our reception of her installation - we are not to be hoodwinked by these 'happy family' snaps. These edited images hint at another story, that this child was the victim of cyclical and violent child abuse.

Mark Kimber explores his boy's own imagery in cibachrome transparencies and elliptical ink-jet prints face-mounted to perspex. The works mimic an illustration style of current glossy magazines in the nostalgic use of archetypal signs and stylish framing. Hung vertically on the wall, custom designer-black satin gloss frames contain light boxes illuminating the transparencies of images collaged and reworked with Photoshop. Kimber probes his gendered identity and his maturing relationship with his aging father via the male physique, football heroes, Hollywood cowboys. A glossary of names of 1950s sputniks: Apogee, Abelation, Albedo, Aphelion are sand-blasted on to the face of the protective light box glass and speaking of his boyhood language: backyard star-gazing at galaxies, celluloid movie stars and Aussie rules superheroes.

Deborah Paauwe's work is shiny and squeaky clean. Toysville... girls' stuff and all things nice ... glossy influences from Seventeen magazine and American cool'n kitsch Barbie. Pretty, plastic, coloured doll's house fridge and stove are photographed and enlarged to become super-scaled framed cibachromes (Toy Fridge 1997 and Toy Stove 1997) which stand leaning against the gallery wall like furniture. Five pristine silk cushions, like stepping stones of carefully trod paths in speech and etiquette, lie on the gallery floor. Each one frames an image transfer portrait of Paauwe's Chinese mother's ancestors. Other photographs appear as image transfers on white ceramic wine cups. Collected miniature things, paper doll cut-outs, clothing, Barbie doll shoes, doll's house appliances and word cards are neatly placed together on shelves and plinths which are somewhat reminiscent of an Asian culture of spirit house offerings /ancestor worship in the Chinese New Year.

Emerging artist, Toby Richardson exhibits large-scaled spray-jet prints and cigar-type wooden boxes of colour laser-jet prints mounted onto puzzle cubes. With a polaroid camera, Richardson revisits his old neighbourhood of growing up 1950s suburban South Australian Housing Trust development in Elizabeth, a GMH satellite city north of Adelaide.

Kelvil Street 1997, a large linen triptych, shows a view of three typical Trust houses and equals a boy's one-time footpath length of cricket pitch ... Kelvill Street is now deadsville: stobie pole, concrete gutter, skeleton of an abandoned shopping trolley and shells of vacated housing. Richardson visits homes he once knew and photographs two interiors: a kitchen and a lounge room which authenticate the memory of place. Scalextric 1997 is a haunting image of a familiar past, a portrait of an ordinary woman sitting playing a piano in her loungeroom (floral carpet, terylene curtain) gazing at you from the large spray-jet print. A hard-edged red-filled diagram of a remembered toy (Scalextrics race track) floats across the print surface as does the drawing of Buffy, the family dog, which overlays the bare-boned and utilitarian kitchen in Buffy 1997.

Richardson's work, in the CACSA's rear gallery, the last space to enter, exudes the presence of a warm homecoming and awakens hazy memories. It is an appropriate resting place in The Measured Room.

'All biographies like all autobiographies
like all narratives tell one story in place of another story'. .

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