Eveline Kotai Living Forest 2019 (detail) acrylic, giclee print, belgian 76 x 1200 cm Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA
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Permission to breathe

Review: Eveline Kotai, “Breathing Pattern”
Art Gallery of Western Australia ⋅
Review by Lydia Edwards ⋅

“Breathing Pattern” is tucked away in a corner of the ground floor of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and it took me a moment to locate it. I soon realised, though, that this peaceful placement is more than appropriate for the aim of Eveline Kotai’s work. As she eloquently puts it, “We don’t have space in our lives. It’s getting harder and harder to find space … I want in my exhibition to achieve ‘a moment between two thoughts … it’d be nice if I could achieve that’.”

This is certainly accomplished with the exhibition’s biggest and most imposing piece, Living Forest (detail pictured top), which takes the viewer on a trajectory of the seasons with bold colour and confident lines. As you meander down the length of the canvas, the lines gradually thin out into an emptier space, threaded with elegant autumnal patches of colour. Reach the end and these have vanished, the lines now muted and fading into winter. The sense is that the work has stopped short just before a void, and other pieces – White Noise Remix amongst them – continue that theme of neutral shades, a calmer or lonelier space (depending on your interpretation) sometimes interrupted with tiny splashes of colour that are shown either in a dot of paint or dash of pen and take the viewer by surprise.

Eveline Kotai White noise remix I 2016 acrylic, canvas and nylon thread on linen 91 x 91 cm Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA
Eveline Kotai, ‘White noise remix I’, 2016;
acrylic, canvas and nylon thread on linen; 91 x 91 cm, Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA.

Kotai’s method is intertextual and interdisciplinary. Described as “idiosyncratic” by Art Collective WA, part of her technique involves cutting up paintings into slim strips and rearranging them across a new surface, with each piece attached using a sewing machine and invisible thread. This process recalls deconstruction and raises connotations of regeneration and transmutation, but appears meticulously planned – perhaps even obsessive. Kotai acknowledges this, describing her practice as labour-intensive but, for her, calming and therapeutic in its repetitiveness. It helps her to spend time in the moment and it is this gift that she fervently wishes to pass on to her audience.

To some extent this could be compromised by the artist’s statement, which prompts visitors to enter neutrally, suppressing an ingrained and perhaps conditioned desire to search for deep meaning in the works. As Kotai poignantly remarks, “a reliance on text … caus[es] a crisis of confidence … we are now in the habit of going straight to the didactic before looking at the work, not trusting our own ability to see … It’s always a relief to me when it just states the name, title, date and medium”. In common with practitioners like Yoko Ono, who famously remarked that artists are used to controlling how much the audience “takes”, Kotai’s statement makes us aware of how damaging and demoralising this endless power play and contextualising can be, not just for the viewer but for the artist too. Because of this, it is surprising that the works’ titles are sufficiently enigmatic to invite speculation. Key examples are Trace Elements Expanding, Writing on Air and the show’s title work  Breathing Pattern. These works hold beautiful titles that are hard to dismiss without examining further.

Eveline Kotai, 'Breathing Pattern #3' 2019, acrylic on plywood, 120.7 x 270 cm, Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA.
Eveline Kotai, ‘Breathing Pattern #3’ 2019, acrylic on plywood, 120.7 x 270 cm, Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA.

The work Breathing Pattern embodies another approach favoured by Kotai, that of using acrylic on plywood to produce what, from a distance, appears to be a set of blocks akin to the work of Mark Rothko or Sean Scully. Close up, we can see they are composed of tiny meticulous lines of paint, leaving just enough space and transparency to reveal a shadow of the wood grain skeleton beneath.

As with Rothko and Scully, along with Kazimir Malevich’s famous white and black canvases, first glances belie the depth and intensity of tone and texture. Perhaps this complexity and variety of technique is what Kotai wishes us to focus on, and wants us to let speak for itself. A lack of supplementary text in an exhibition can sometimes cause an audience to panic. It can impose expectations that threaten to move art back into the ivory tower.

The faith Kotai puts in her audience is heartening, and her encouraging plea to “trust our own ability to see, our own desire to make what we can of the artists’ intent” allows the exhibition to be an accessible, communicative and collaborative space. Breathing Pattern gave me permission to take my time with the works, to discuss or to muse silently, to analyse or to internalise.

I think Kotai would be pleased with that.

Eveline Kotai: “Breathing Pattern” runs until 10 February, 2020.

Pictured top: Eveline Kotai, ‘Living Forest’, 2019 (detail); acrylic, giclee print, belgian 76 x 1200 cm; Courtesy of Artist and Art Collective WA.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Kotai offers material for meditation

Review: Eveline Kotai – Invisible Threads ·
Art Collective WA ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

With a focus on colour, pattern and texture, Eveline Kotai’s work rewards a sustained focus. Her current exhibition at Art Collective, “Invisible Threads” combines recent works with those selected across her 40-year practice.

Kotai’s work spans a broad range of materials including beads, thread, wood, and printmaking. She unites this diverse practice through her deep commitment to pattern and texture, meticulously detailed, and an ongoing experimentation with materials. She is drawn to the relationship between art-making and the natural world, particularly through elements of continual change, or the cycles of life. In her more recent works, she cuts up her paintings and restitches them together in an act of collage that reflects an increasingly fragmented, transitory world.

Trace Elements Expanding 1-9, 2019, is a succession of nine canvases restitched together in this way. As the viewer walks along the wall, the canvases progressively become smaller and more colourful, ranging from large, luminous and pale to a tiny riot of colour at the end. Whilst they initially look like paintings, and in in a way they are, but the canvases have been sliced into strips and stitched together, reordered from their original composition by the invisible threads of the exhibition’s title.

For Kotai, this way of working opens up a space for contemplation, and the possibility of regeneration. This meditative mood is reflected throughout the exhibition, not only in the large collage-paintings but in the artist’s smaller, delicately patterned works that similarly avoid any kind of representation, focusing purely on abstract patterns. Whilst this could be seen as a way to make sense of the world, or create order out of chaos, it’s actually the opposite.

Rather than representative works that try to make sense of or reflect the world around us, Kotai’s methods of working create experimental new spaces and visual languages that don’t rely on ordering or representing the world, but simply exploring it, and creating new possibilities along the way.

“Invisible Threads” ends on June 15.

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An artwork of yellow and black geometric lines on a concrete wall next to a staircase.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

At the intersection of art and friendship

Review: Various artists, ‘Collective States’; Bevan Honey & Paul Moncrieff, ‘BHPM’·
Art Collective WA ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

The exhibitions “Collective States” and “BHPM”, currently at Art Collective WA, both explore ideas of collaboration and collectivity, and the possibilities that arise from community and friendship.

“Collective States”, curated by Paola Anselmi, brings together a range of artists whose work is not immediately similar. In so doing, Anselmi emphasises points of connection across a range of art practices, showcasing the diversity of work created by mid-career WA artists as well as the ways in which these practices can unexpectedly overlap, collide or intersect. Featuring the work of Christophe Canato, Jennifer Cochrane, Mel Dare, Louise Dickmann, Jane Finlay, Indra Geidans, Paul Kaptein, Susan Roux, Vanessa Russ and Lynnette Voevodin, the exhibition variously displays work that examines bodies, patterns, textures and the WA landscape.

Many of the works are exploratory, portraying their subject matters in unexpected ways. Christophe Canato’s Galerie de Portrait #1-8 is a series of portraits with impossibly placed features – ears are twisted upside down, or placed in the middle of the forehead, emerging from the centre. The images are slightly unsettling, with the “wrongness” of the features challenging the unity of a single face and creating multiple anonymous identities within each image.

This theme of images revealing multitudes or challenging initial appearances is carried through to other works in the exhibition, such as Jennifer Cochrane’s Impossible Shadow sculptures, which emerge from corners, working with the architecture of the space to create shadows and patterns where none previously existed.

Other artists examine the tropes and common narratives of the WA landscape, with Indra Geidan’s The State I’m In placing emphasis on roadkill, four-wheel drives, and native flora and fauna, juxtaposed against the kitchiness of the State Museum’s souvenir teaspoons (hanging neatly on an Australia-shaped rack) and crockery sets.

An artwork made of canvas with frames of blue, yellow, green, red and black
Negotiating the vicissitudes of a long friendship: Bevan Honey and Paul Moncrieff, ‘BHPM8’, spraypaint on canvas, acrylic paint on plywood, 70 x 50cm.

In “BHPM”, Bevan Honey and Paul Moncrieff use their art practices to negotiate the vicissitudes of a long friendship; the challenges of communication and distance as well as its benefits and rewards. Over the past three years, the artists have been exchanging works and intervening with paint or construction additions, overlapping or alongside the original piece. The results are structured objects or assemblages of (variously) acrylic, plywood, spray paint and metal, all which seem remarkably unified and considered – a mark of the ultimate benefits of ongoing negotiation and collaboration. These collaborations are the physical results of a friendship and creative relationship that prioritises change, the unexpected and responsivity.

In both exhibitions, points of connections emerge between and across individual works, creating an interestingly layered showcase of WA artists.

Both exhibitions continue until December 22.

Pictured top is Jennifer Cochrane’s “Old Shadows, New Shadows”, 2018, tape on steps in Cathedral Square, Perth, variable dimensions. Courtesy Art Collective WA.

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Penny Coss, Purple Stain, 2018, acrylic on unstretched canvas, 160 x 180cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA
Mixed media, News, Painting, Reviews, Visual arts

A reward for attention to detail

Review: Penny Coss, “From Someplace Else” & Susan Flavell, “Golden Flowers”·
Art Collective WA, Cathedral Square·
Review by Miranda Johnson·

Penny Coss’s “From Someplace Else” and Susan Flavell’s “Golden Flowers” exhibitions, both currently showing at Art Collective’s Cathedral Square space, are two quite different shows that, nonetheless, both speak to themes of materiality and environments.

Coss’s exhibition consists of a series of canvases, many unstretched, applied with acrylic paint. Some are pinned to the wall, hanging straight; others are looped or draped fabric, combined with wooden support structures. Coss, whose practice arises from an interest in responding to the natural environment and the memory of place, uses these fabrics to inspire a reflection upon landscapes, particularly those stained with troubled histories. This concept of staining resonates through the works, which are crumpled, traced and dipped in acrylic paint, resulting in an interestingly uneven and inconsistent tone across the canvas. They’re the kind of works that appear peaceful and simple from far away, but upon closer inspection are more complex, the shapes, colours and textures combining to create landscapes of their own with multifaceted materialities. Works such as Untitled Blue (2018) and Sediment Flat (2018) gently pull the viewer in close, allowing for an interaction and exploration of various textures, patterns and hues that is deeply engaging.

Susan Flavell’s works, occupying the other side of the gallery, are similarly engaging in their exploration of material and form. However, where Coss focuses her exploration of this concept to canvas for the most part, Flavell expands her reach to a multitude of objects, mostly found objects, combining the unexpected detritus of suburban life to create pendants, hanging sculptures, medallions and, in the case of Golden Flowers (Fire Goddess) (2018), a tall free-standing sculpture of a goddess adorned with materials both organic and artificial.

Susan Flavell, ‘Witches Ladder with Trumpet’, 2018, found toys, papier mache, fencing wire, from fake gold leaf, baroque pearls, found beads, glue, wire, 68x20x26cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA.

Flavell’s works hang beautifully against the lengthy window, the various objects suspended in a long row, allowing the viewer to examine the intricacies of the materials used in each individual one. Many of the work’s titles also refer to spellcraft and witchery, such as Witches Ladder with Golf Ball (2018). Upon further research, I discovered that a “witch’s ladder” is indeed a practice from folklore that refers to an object made from knotted cord or hair that contains within itself a spell. This is indeed exactly what these objects resemble, with many materials sourced from a site similarly imbued with folklore and spiritual power, Beeliar Wetlands. However, the addition of unexpected modern-day talismans – such as the golf ball, a plastic dinosaur, a found peace sign and a tiny Monopoly hotel – add a playful touch. These talismans are, in themselves, imbued with a particular power in our society, and Flavell combines folklore’s traditions with our modern-day symbols of peace, capital gain and social power, which may not be quite the same but nonetheless reinforce the weight we place upon the material good-luck charms we all keep and carry, in one way or another.

In this way, Coss and Flavell’s works are concerned with similar pursuits – that of the meditative, ritualistic way we engage with the material aspects of our lives, and the significance we can place upon the small details within a larger whole. Both artists’ works display a thoughtful reflection upon the way we look, touch and feel in response to materials, in an engaging exhibition that rewards close viewing and attention to detail.

Penny Coss, “From Someplace Else” & Susan Flavell, “Golden Flowers” show at Art Collective WA until September 8.

Pictured top: Penny Coss, “Purple Stain”, 2018, acrylic on unstretched canvas, 160 x 180cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA.

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Alex Spremberg, Liquid Structures #20, enamel on canvas, 150 x 180 x 3cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA
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What lies beneath

Review: Alex Spremberg, “Liquid Geometrics” and Andre Lipscombe, “Unconcealed Paintings” ·
Art Collective WA, Cathedral Square, Perth ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

Fittingly displayed together at Art Collective WA in Cathedral Square, Alex Spremberg’s “Liquid Geometrics” and Andre Lipscombe’s “unconcealed paintings” work together as a joint enquiry into form and structure. By exposing the core elements of a composition, the two local artists pose questions about the way in which society has trained itself to look at the surface without questioning the integrity or complexity of the systems concealed beneath.

Spremberg subverts our expectations of geometric systems by creating disorder within order – the edges of the scaffolding appear as though they are melting, colour running and mixing throughout all vertices. The skeletons of these stacked and interlocked cubes speak to stability, playing on our familiarity with grid systems in everyday life. Yet, as Spremberg explains, the order in a man-made, controlled environment is not always guaranteed, as humans themselves are fuelled by emotion and impulse, forces which cannot be constructed and contained.

The message in “Liquid Geometrics”, therefore, is largely accessible. This simplicity, however, potentially limits the depth of engagement for the observer. Although Spremberg has used a variety of colour palates for the different structures, from two-tone to almost rainbow-like mixtures, as well as various backgrounds in unpainted plywood or painted canvas, the exhibition starts to feel less dimensional as the concept repeats over the sixteen selected pieces. In this, it achieves a uniformity where unpredictability might have been more exciting. One almost yearns for a statement piece; a dramatic configuration or exaggerated example of the paint’s fluidity. That said, perhaps the result would have been the same either way, with Spremberg reminding us that, ultimately, these frameworks are unable to contain anything but empty space.

Andre Lipscome, Painting with Chromatophores, 2018, 30 x 23 x 3cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA
Andre Lipscome, ‘Painting with Chromatophores’, 2018, 30 x 23 x 3cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA.

Lipscombe’s collection, “unconcealed paintings”, allows the viewer to engage with the topology of the chosen artworks. It is the contrast between the paintings’ two-dimensional image and three-dimensional form that is so compelling. For this reason, two standout pieces are Flayed painting and Painting with chromatophores, the layers of paint and exposed grooves mesmerising in their detail. Dark matter painting is also a delight to behold; the end result so extra-terrestrial and unique one can scarcely believe it consists of paint and timber and has not been excavated from elsewhere in the universe.

Lipscombe’s works in this exhibition evoke a natural curiosity, an urge to step back and step forward to discover what is concealed from a distance, what is revealed when one is truly paying close attention. In this way, the accumulation of paint films takes on a dynamism. Lipscombe speaks to the idea that erasure, clearance and removal is a transformative process; one that is as interesting and valuable as building a new form. This exhibition, however, does not always feel cohesive, with several of the seventeen pieces, arguably, too subtle in their cuttings or form when placed alongside their neighbours.

Seen together, these two exhibitions engage with concepts and materials in ways that run against orthodox construction, reminding us that precision and sleekness are not the only markers of success.

Both exhibitions are showing at Art Collective WA until August 4.

Pictured top: Detail from Alex Spremberg, ‘Liquid Structures #20’, enamel on canvas, 150 x 180 x 3cm. Courtesy Art Collective WA.


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