A kaleidoscopic haze of suspended balls and forests of synthetic fur

The AGNSW ‘s ‘Spacemakers and Roomshakers’ exhibit unearths some of the gallery’s most immersive installations, some which have not been showcased for years. The large-scale works include fabric towers filled with spice, a kaleidoscopic haze of suspended balls and forests of alpine forms covered in synthetic fur. Creatively employing light, sound, video, space and aroma, the exhibit is a feast for the senses, making ‘space explorers’ out of gallery-goers as they are thrown into uniquely crafted worlds.

Ernesto Neto’s Just like drops in time, nothing (2002). Polymer stretch fabric, spices [Image: AGNSW]
One of the main highlights uncovered for this exhibition is Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s Just like drops in time, nothing (2002). Featuring floor-to-ceiling sculptures, everything in the piece is designed to stimulate all of their viewer’s senses. The massive suspended strings of fabric contain lumps of fragrant spices, the invasive aromatic impact at odds with the serene delicacy of the still figures.

Along with physically triggering our bodily reactions, Neto’s use of sheer elastic fabric also creates as an association between the architecture and the shape of the body. The solid masses filling the sacks evoke images of lycra stretched over flesh, while an architectural allusion created by the curving translucent arches that frame the cavernous room. The associations don’t stop here: the hangings also allude to raindrops, glaciers or rays of light glancing through forest. Neto’s work appears to be a manifestation of Brazil’s complex relationships between its rising metropolises and its primordial jungle, representing the tensions between constructed and the natural.

Nike Savvas’ Atomic: full of love, full of wonder (2005). Polystyrene, nylon, polymer paint, electric fans, air movement. [Image: AGNSW]
Australian artist Nike Savvas adjusts her installation artwork piece, consisting of over 50,000 polystyrene balls. [Image: David Gray]
Also unearthed for display is Nike Savvas Atomic: full of love full of wonder (2005) by Nike Savvas. Comprising of thousands of vibrating, multi-coloured balls that are suspended throughout the airspace, the work creates an optical effect of a “shimmering haze.” A tangible, interactive expansion of op art from the 1960s, the work has influences of modernist abstraction, mimicking movement through sculptural finesse. Kinetic and bursting with saturated colour, Savvas was largely inspired by the distinctive Australian landscape – the hazy heat of the desert, the cloudless cerulean of the sky and the red earth. After living abroad in cloudy and drab London, Savvas longed for the richness of Australian nature, leading to a piece infused with a nostalgic longing for Australia’s powerful bursts of colour.

The installation also has a scientific flair, with the spherical fragments, floating in space, evoking atoms, in all their spontaneity and wonder. The whimsical construction of the forms and the title of the piece, ‘full of love full of wonder,’ sidesteps the fraught and destructive nature of the atomic age, choosing instead to highlight the thread of hope and awe that scientific discovery can bring.

Kathy Temin’s My monument: black garden (2010-11). Synthetic fur, polymer fibres, wood, steel. Dimensions: 350.0 x 350.0 x 850.0 cm overall [Image: AGNSW]
Along with utilising space in innovative ways, the exhibition also features works that showcase a mastery over textiles. Kathy Temin’s My monument: black garden (2010-11) plays with a viewer’s experience with scale through an unusual and creative material practice. True to its name, the work features enormous architectural forms that resemble a dense cluster of trees, with a tiny opening that allows viewers to venture into the heart of the thicket, where there lies a bench for contemplation of the cocooning shapes. But Temin subverts viewer expectations of ‘monuments,’ namely the expectation of solidity and gravitas, by covering her sculptures with black synthetic fur, planted on a regular fur-clad base. The vertical structures evoke the giant soft toys associated with childhood, creating a disconcerting perception of space.

Yinka Shonibare’s Alien toy painting (2011). Cotton fabric, polymer paint, wood, steel, plastic toys.

Additionally, Nigierian-English artist Yinka Shonibare’s work Alien toy painting (2011) features a tapestry of ‘alien’ shapes made of transcultural textile inspired by Indonesian Batik design, with the irregular and vividly coloured ‘toys’ signifying the experience of cultural alienation. This sense of individuality and otherness clashes with the re-occurring circular motif, which references the uniform nature of mass-produced commodities.

‘Spacemakers and Roomshakers’ is an unmissable exhibit for those seeking to experience truly involving artistic experiences that interrogate the relationship between architecture and the organic, additionally featuring video art by Daniel von Sturmer and eclectic sculpture art by Phyllida Barlow. The exhibition will be open to the public until October 21st.

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