24 September - 10 October 2009

Stephanie Hicks

The act of drawing directly on the wall with carbon is a practice that extends back to ancient times. A tunnel drawn on the wall of Blindside connects us to the past whilst simultaneously providing a futuristic portal into the fourth dimension.

Walking through walls is a gift held by those with supernatural powers, able to make passage from one place to another without the hindrance of logistics or solid matter blocking their way. On the gallery wall we are presented with such an invitation, a tunnel has appeared – where might it take us?

Not far from the Campbell Arcade and railway underpass, we are reminded of the vast network of tunnels unfolding underneath the city in every direction. Some are full of water and rats and terrible smells, in some thousands of commuters are transported from one portal to another. Tunnels are dark and long and deep and a place where there may lurk terrible possibilities.

One can not help think of Sylvester Stalone rescuing train travellers back to daylight, The Cave Clan or children lost in drains unable to find their way. Tunnels have long been a place where the human imagination has played out scenes of anticipation and suspense. The metaphorical associations are many, and with them inseparable a senseof adventure, possibilities of peril, the hope of redemption, time, journey and direction.

Stephanie Hicks catches us off guard between the fictitious and the real.

We are found wandering through the tunnels of our mind recalling cognitive associations that have been triggered. Our brain mapping of memories and knowledge, our image concepts and our knowledge of viewing are all contained within our mental responses, conscious and sub consciously. And then we are brought back to the picture before us recalling that it is just that, an image drawn on a surface.

It is this idea of the real and represented that occupies much of Hicks’ work. The real being the moment of experience and the represented manifesting itself as memories that often twist and turn in their remembering. For Hicks, memory is a passage into a wonderland of images and juxtapositions that don’t quite make sense. Like Alice, she invites us to tread down the rabbit hole and see what may appear.

Hicks works mainly across drawing and collage media, extending her practice into the third dimension by using real depth to separate components of her drawings. The actual drawings in space, often card cut-outs supported by struts, are still in essence two dimensional viewing planes, which when viewed against the wall drawing they are placed in relation to, create a play between real and represented space.

By this displacement of drawn elements and space, a challenge has been set up between the positioning of viewer and picture plane. We can think of the picture plane as representing time. Humans’ fascination with capturing fugitive moments has given rise to a long history of image making.  Painting, photography, video and drawing are all but some of the methods that have been deployed.

The very act of drawing directly onto a wall with charcoal cannot be separated from links to cave art and prehistoric times. Wall drawings are the very beginnings of representation as we know it today and in this way Hicks’ drawings do transport us from one time to another through her use of such technique.
With images, similarly to time, we cannot physically access its given form one way or the other except to experience it as it is.  We cannot physically enter an image, just as we cannot physically enter backwards or forward into time.

Should a prehistoric human view Hicks’ work, what would they see? Psychologists have established that the prehistoric brain did not perceive depth on first instance, not having been taught the visual knowledge of perspective.1 In Hicks’ work we cannot take our knowledge of perspective for granted. A tunnel is the ultimate view in our experience of distance, providing one singular point from which all matter advances. Suspend this knowledge of perspective and we are left with a circular form from which lines and form circulate out from the centre, much like a clock face or an image of the sun.

The duality contained within Hicks’ work reminds us of our own passage from one point to another, looking back to see what has gone and wondering into the future, what may come.

RJRAE O’Connor, 2009


1. Wollheim, RichardWhat The Spectator Sees