Palace Gallery Brisbane 15 - 31 August
Christina Waterson's first solo exhibition, entitled recent and held at the Palace Gallery in Merivale Street, Brisbane, constituted a summary of her most recent practice and also conveyed a glimpse or promise of future permutations and directions. This is not to say that the work is predictable; rather the nature of Waterson's method is continually searching, finding and retrieving material from the world surrounding her and the stockpile of matter she retains from the construction of her work. These works emit a considered and harmonious aura, conveying that the exhibition was produced from months of fine calculation to the exact placement and careful dimensions of the eight pieces included.
Waterson's chosen materials are drawn from her immediate world: drafting paper, plastics, steel and wood; betraying her background in architecture and construction. This mass produced, industrial matter is cut, joined and crafted into simply devised but intricate structures. A significant factor in her work is the labour intensive and complex production values that undermine the normal mass use/discard nature of these materials. Waterson takes the everyday disposability of 'stuff' and elevates it to a celebration of form and vision.
Rest (2002), a mass of interlocking steel fasteners suspended from a ceiling grid, created a layer of glinting light refraction in the gallery space. This glittering visual field grasps the attention of the viewer, who is then compelled to consider the intricate repeating components of simple elements. The precise height of 600mm was chosen to maximise the viewer's approach and perception of the work as inviting and attractive, also allowing them to walk around and contemplate their own body's relationship to the piece in the space.
The various components are made into an index in Collection (1996-2002), where in a remarkably open manner Waterson displayed her inspiration and conceptual workings to the viewer.
Polyfilm plastic sleeves pasted on the front window of the Palace Gallery displayed the small incidences of the artist's inspiration - loosely diaristic fragments obsessively categorised and captured within the sterile bags, like small jewel-coloured butterflies pinned by a collector, in a process bordering on fetishistic. Waterson's intuitive manner of working is exposed, where a small incident or encounter with a form will prompt the manipulation into more complex works. The artist's relationship to the 'miniature' or working component is highlighted, with designs often repeated until a larger, human size scale is achieved.
The use of often cold, spare components belies the autobiographical richness of Waterson's project. Remember (2000-02), is a personal work, the intent of which is recollection. Small leaf or feather shapes of drafting film are interlocked end to end and spiralled in a circle. The form rests on a dark plinth, slightly raised from the floor. The viewer's approach to this piece is one of calm and reverence. It was constructed over two years, as a meditation on vision and perception through the artist's journey to accept her father's gradual loss of sight. The temporal element of this intimate piece is visible in the colour shift of the older plastic to faint glimpses of green, orange and blue tones in the older paper, like the fading of a photograph. Waterson likens the process of remembering to that of forgetting, two conceptual processes of the psyche that are made alike by their polarity. Her indexes or components thus become triggers for both processes.
The histories of these works have also been retained. Waterson keeps all the remnants used in making the work, as a record and as a reflection on 'use value'. These components may even be displayed along with the work, such as the stack of polyfilm sheets from which the bag shapes were cut that were piled alongside Collection, or they might be eventually reconfigured into other works.
The relation of these works to vision and the image is a perceptible tendency, which has an intriguing affinity with photography and recording. Collection indicates that this idea may occupy an even stronger place in her practice in the future. While Waterson's work could hardly be spoken of as figurative, a precise engagement with image, perception, and the human relationship to these works and their materials, is being played out here.
Some of the best solo exhibitions, while demonstrating an artist's practice over a given period, also give an indication of the future. Christina Waterson's recent has convincingly achieved this goal, in the presentation of this accomplished selection of works, while also conveying a promise of future possibilities unfolding in her practice.