STEVENSON presents Restless Republic by Penny Siopis.
Siopis’ interest in materiality and contingency, form and formlessness in painting is longstanding. Over the last decade she has intensified this interest through experiments with glue and ink, creating a fluid process in which the medium is an active agent in the making of the work. Siopis writes:
Experimenting with unorthodox materials in painting generates new ideas. More than that, it offers an opportunity to open one’s self to the ‘life’ of non-human matter and to find in this openness an intimate model for relationality in the bigger political picture of the self, of the social body, of ecology; a model that is full of risk and uncertainty.
She starts with the relationship between the horizontal and the vertical, first creating the conditions for something to happen by placing the stretched canvas on the floor and pouring glue and ink onto its surface. Siopis continues:
The glue is vibrant; it reacts chemically with the ink, responds to the pull of gravity, and is animated by exposure to the air. Opaque at first, the glue becomes transparent as it dries. At this moment animation is suspended, and form is fixed into a potential image. Looking down onto the surface invites viewing that is intimate, immersive and tactile. Then I lean the canvas against the wall and move it around, this side up, then that side up, then again … Vertical viewing has a distancing effect that opens perception for outside eyes. Everyone sees according to her own template, yet nothing is settled within the bounds of the picture, or in relation to other pictures or objects in its orbit.
The exhibition brings found objects into play with the paintings, the combination producing associative networks between them and across the gallery, simultaneously referencing art, society and politics. The title Restless Republicalludes to both a nation state and a state of being, of flux and volatility, emergence and explosiveness. Here Siopis dissolves distinctions between process and image, between the act of making and re-making, and the critical distance adopted in the act of viewing. Process speaks again of the ‘life’ of the medium; chance is central, control is a myth, and authorship belongs to viewer, medium and maker. Siopis writes:
Giving over to the fluid process with all its vicissitudes and visceralities brings forth sensations and images that press against my consciousness. Everything happens in the moment; the spills of the moving matter ensnare the events of the day. Older gestalts join the fray in my mind’s eye – Plato’s Republic, clashing orders in the French Revolution, Hobbes’ Leviathan … Physical objects fall in and out of the painted world. Some press their faces against the painted surface touching their own reflection. What force pulls here, pushes there? The republic is a particular public in a world of flux.
The exhibition takes place concurrent to Siopis’ residency at the Maitland Institute, Open Form/Open Studio, where the public is invited to engage in the evolution of Siopis’ glue and ink paintings as she works in situ, and which includes a programme of talks. Follow her on https://pennysiopis-openform.tumblr.com/
Siopis will conduct a walkabout of her exhibition on Saturday 1 July at 11am.
Entrance is free and all are welcome.