Controlled Chaos

“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos, lurks an even eerier type of order.” Douglas Hofstadter

Let’s talk about chaos and control. Specifically, let’s talk about the chaos and control currently on display in the Amber Wallis/Ari Athans joint show at Edwina Corlette Gallery.

At first glance, the respective art practices of Wallis and Athans don’t appear to have a great deal in common. Wallis, based in Byron Bay, is a free-spirited painter of busy, emotional compositions full of bright colour and expansive brushstrokes. The work is abstract, though not entirely, with subtle reference points that allude to interiors, landscapes and dicks (yes, you did just read that). I suspect, however, that the contemplations underpinning the works are slightly less whimsical. The type of humour required to create works with titles like Still Life with Cactus, Skelephone and Dildo is one with an edge, a little like a wise-cracking street kid who plays tough to deflect attention elsewhere. They are ultimately happy, very pleasing paintings, but I get the sense they were made with the energy that comes from a degree of inner turmoil.

Athans, conversely, produces work that is a study in science and technique. Working with a steel base, Athans applies enamel paint, oil pastel and graphite in layers, sanding back and reapplying as she goes. Oxidisation, rust and pitting are all part of a process that allow for natural reactions between very unnatural materials. The outcome is artwork that glows like light refracted off a prism, which given Athan’s background in jewellery, gemology and geology isn’t altogether surprising. Her artwork is the tangible, and very beautiful, result of the scientific world colliding with the creative.

This isn’t the first time Edwina Corlette has juxtaposed the work of two artists in the gallery, and it’s an approach I love. To see artists hang alongside each other is to see how different art practices work together to complement and inform. Right now, with the  spontaneity of the Wallis works played off so well against the rigidity of the Athans pieces, it is an energising feeling of controlled chaos that hits you as you walk in the door.

Edwina Corlette Gallery
Until 27 June 2015




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