NEW HISTORIES

21 May - 6 June 2009

Ria Green

Systems of collecting and documentation are at the heart of Ria Green’s art practice. In her daily passage from home to one place or the other, she is driven by the possibility of another discovery; a roaming curator eager for her next acquisition. Green’s studio (her bedroom, kitchen and lounge room), bears witness to these travels and reveals her to be the custodian of a strange array of oddments: heirloom cups-and-saucers, crystal brooches, discarded bread-ties, embroidered handkerchiefs, used ribbons, broken tiles and neat stacks of post-cards.

Systems of collecting and documentation are at the heart of Ria Green’s art practice. In her daily passage from home to one place or the other, she is driven by the possibility of another discovery; a roaming curator eager for her next acquisition. Green’s studio (her bedroom, kitchen and lounge room), bears witness to these travels and reveals her to be the custodian of a strange array of oddments: heirloom cups-and-saucers, crystal brooches, discarded bread-ties, embroidered handkerchiefs, used ribbons, broken tiles and neat stacks of post-cards.

In her self-appointed role as ‘archivist / curator / historian’, Green transforms her collected treasures through the perceptual apparatus of the artist. Colour, pattern and form are the organising principles through which she searches for connections between the not-too-distant past and the soon-to-be-distant present.

In New Histories we seethe latest acquisitions in Green’s museum of everyday life. She has salvaged framed reproductions of paintings from second-hand stores and road-side collections. A hand-made embroidery also appears, as if to call attention to the ‘authenticity’ of a collection otherwise characterised by duplicates. Together these once desired objects are transformed into cultural specimens and analysed according to a framework of primary and secondary colours.

Each artefact in New Histories has been distilled into a set of constituent colours, creating a visual hypothesis of the palette used to construct the image. These hues, and their respective concentrations, are translated into tinted sand, documented and sealed in scientific jars. Rows of glassy vessels are neatly placed in proximity to their corresponding image, as if to cement their connections, or perhaps the artist is reassuring herself of the links between the past and the present. Then again, it may be an invitation to viewers to engage in their own perceptual evaluation, to verify whether Green’s speculative representation matches their own analysis.

Green’s process of documentation has created new trajectories for the discarded images that once lived (we imagine) in the kitsch lounge-rooms of Melbourne’s suburbs. Their presence today, on the white walls of a gallery, does not seem to ‘elevate’ them to fine art status, or even prompt us to question the tension between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ despite the inclusion of embroidery. Instead, it renders them artefacts of time, subject to the eyes of the ‘artist-as-archaeologist’ in a search to understand something about the past, or perhaps the present.

Whilst the ‘found’ images in New Histories might signify earlier times, Green’s works do not attempt to ‘recover’ the past through imitation or reproduction. Instead, there is a recognition that memory does not repeat what has occurred, but constructs and transforms. The colour samples of each artefact do not mimic, but re-imagine. We see the distortions and re-transcriptions of memory in action.

New Histories reminds us that memory also involves forgetting; that in the process of archiving, things are discarded and lost. A collection of vessels that stand without a print or embroidery to interpret them, leave one wondering what has transpired. Has a picture been misplaced, or is this evidence of rejected experiments, a sign of the artists’ process of material thinking? Whatever these orphan bottles designate, they endure like souvenirs of a distant past. An indication of the longing to capture something that remains forever elusive.

Clare Humphries - 2009