25 September – 12 October 2013

Opening Night | Thursday 26 September 6-8pm

Susan Lincoln + Andrea Higgins

Long-term visual collaborators, Queensland-based artists Susan Lincoln and Andrea Higgins continue their creative investigations into capturing light and its effects on space and objects. Both artists interrogate aspects of memory and the transformative effects of light. Working in different mediums, cohesion is created by the balance of Lincolns’ abstracted, white, minimal installation; My Beautiful Landfill in Gallery 1 and Higgins’ dark black and brooding photograms; The New Victorians in Gallery 2.

IMAGES | Susan Lincoln + Andrea Higgins, Collar, 2013 b/w fibre paper, 50.8 x 61cm, Susan Lincoln, My Beautiful Landfill, 2013, various plastics, lead crystal, timber, vinyl, chromed metal, wire, paper, photographs| Images courtesy of the artist. 


Susan Lincoln, My Beautiful Landfill

Like a bowerbird, Susan Lincoln has been building something rather particular. And, as it is with this species, she too aims to seduce with her own bower displaying a startling collection of things. This is no empty seduction however, Lincoln’s goal is clear. Her work is a provocation asking us to reconsider the waste we so easily discard, but also to see its material qualities in an entirely new light. For years, Lincoln has accumulated hundreds of plastic, acrylic, transparent items, stashing them in places around her home and studio. One wonders not only how and why Lincoln collected these objects, but on inspection ponders what their purpose was. Excavated from their hiding places, Lincoln brings these objects together to trigger unexpected associations in her latest installation My Beautiful Landfill.

Lincoln’s assemblage evidences a classificatory method that helps make order of the detritus of our lives while demonstrating the artist’s process. She acknowledges many of the objects in My Beautiful Landfill have a story; though given the purpose of some remains a mystery, one is drawn to their own experience of collecting stuff. It is easy to identify, you know, those things you just know will be useful for later, or for which collection is merely based on pure appreciation of form. It is in this habit that Lincoln finds a method—even if the logic can only be understood in hindsight.

The installation itself is veiled behind recycled plastic curtains, luring the viewer into the position of participant as curiosity draws them around and into the space. The minimal palette and requisite use of surgical shoe covers to enter invites images of clinical precision in Lincoln’s process and, as the artist states in conversation, forces the participant to cross a barrier into the space in a way that staves off any further contamination of the environment. The weight of environmental landfill takes on weightlessness through suspension in what appears to be a kind of contained explosion. Like landfill which is deceptively concealed, the participant isn’t able to perceive Lincoln’s two-cubic meter mass all at once. It is a work that must be mined through engagement with the space, and while the selection of curios presented in this assemblage may distract us momentarily, Lincoln has no intention of defying the gravity of her central theme. Rather she encapsulates the narrative of her environmental concerns at the same time that she prompts us to consider the worth of objects beyond their pure material value, their ‘life’ beyond the waste she has so elegantly reframed into another form.

While the installation has a playful, performative quality, the artist’s transformation of material through light reflection and refraction, as well as shadow mirror her previous work. The use of crystals, which act as miniscule prisms, casts light through the polished edges of acrylic objects and faceted beads and into the surrounding space, resulting in rainbows being scattered over the work and participants. Lincoln understands this conflation as a ‘new experiment in form and light’; one that acts as precursor to a larger and long-awaited project titled The Rainbow Room upon which she is placing the finishing touches. Adding depth to the space, the impression of a canopy created through shadow is assisted by lights placed on the floor. Only, this canopy is looming as a crisis of the environmental kind. Lincoln states her work acts as Memento Vivre (reminders to live) and My Beautiful Landfill is no exception. Her only request? That we do so responsibly.

As much a physical landfill, the work also conveys the experience of a psychological landfill having been finally cleared, or at the very least, given form. Perhaps this allows some insight into the exhibition title, Lighten Up! in which Lincoln’s affable nature and new found ‘space’ is hinted upon.

– Dr Laini Burton
Laini Burton is a Brisbane-based artist and writer, and is a Lecturer in the Bachelor of Digital Media at the Queensland College of Art, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland.

Image: Susan Lincoln, My Beautiful Landfill, 2013, (detail) various plastics, lead crystal, timber, monofilament, vinyl, chromed metal, wire, paper, photographs, discarded furniture, immersive space, dimensions variable.

Andrea Higgins, The New Victorians

Staging a historical revision through contemporary photographic practice, Andrea Higgins is taking us back through time and into the Victorian era. With reference to a very specific sartorial tradition, Higgins traces a matrilineal line through lace—lace collars to be precise—to forge relationships between this seemingly lost art and that of the traditional photogram in her series The New Victorians.

This assemblage of collars, which grew from receipt of a family heirloom, to collection, to a typological survey, reveals both the social and intellectual currency of Higgins concerns, grounded as they are in the sourcing, collection and recording of these textile objects. As with the creation of many typologies, they start with a ‘collector’. Prompted by a precious inheritance, Higgins’ quest to bring together this selection of collars has seen her travel many miles, including those made through the now-borderless methods of procurement such as ebay.

What must be appreciated is the efficiency of photography to convey these stories through a typology. With the actual collars themselves being absent, the photograms—even while static—suffice in their seeming texture and depth which Higgins emphasises with her use of archival rag paper. Paying homage to the stories within each textile pattern, the photographer honours them through scale at the very least. Although the very idea of a ‘collar’ represents a kind of austerity, especially when associated with Victorian values, they express the warmth of bodies that lived, felt and moved with their sensuous threads. And even while we understand these collars to have brushed breast, neck and collarbones, their floating abstraction does nothing to detract from the sensuous tactility and vision such a marriage would have inspired.

Indeed, it is impossible not to draw upon associations relating to the era from whence they came. As Higgins claims, the wearing of lace collars had prior to the mid-1500s been an exclusively masculine aspect of dress. Thus there is a significant shift occurring in the Victorian era where these collars emerge from the private world of female domesticity, in a period which marked the burgeoning political and economic struggles of women. It is in this age that women are known to have achingly borne the conditions of patriarchal power structures, and as Rozsika Parker has claimed in her celebrated text The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (2010), sowing, knitting and other forms of ‘female craft’ are understood to have provided a source of creativity and communality between women even while these practices “came to be a major force in the marginalisation of women’s work”. To the untrained eye, it is unlikely that distinctions could be made between examples using needle, bobbin and other lace techniques. What is generally understood however is that lace represents a kind of opulence, decoration and motif of Victorian dress. Despite this historicizing and gendered framework, the work is less about gender politics as it is about honouring a familial and disciplinary tradition which Higgins brings together in her own fine filigree.

Higgins’ photograms eschew the stark opacity created by the traditional archivist approach of flattening objects with glass. Her carefully controlled border bleeds and tonal variations, created as light seeps through shallow spaces, generate positive and negative areas that metaphorically hint at the gaps in historical records of ownership and purpose for these textiles. Suspended in haunting, stark black space The New Victorians returns us to traditional processes and can be perceived as a kind of radical nostalgia, witnessed in part due to the disintegration between the professional and the amateur photographer through technological developments, and advances in textile production that moves further and further away from the hand-made. Moreover, Higgins work is timely here as broader museological interest in textiles has, in recent years, witnessed exhibitions such as Lace – Contemporary Perspectives (Craftwest Centre for Contemporary Craft, Perth 2001), Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting (Museum of Arts and Design, NY 2007), Love Lace (Powerhouse, Syd 2011-2013), and String Theory (MCA, Syd 2013) for example. Through light and a conservator’s touch, Higgins merges the history of her medium with a contemporary preoccupation with memory, fashion and textiles, and identities. In effect, these images are an analogue for changing technologies in both fashion and photography in an age where everything is open to being unfurled and rewoven.

– Dr Laini Burton
Laini Burton is a Brisbane-based artist and writer, and is a Lecturer in the Bachelor of Digital Media at the Queensland College of Art, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland.