Hatchlings & The Fleeting Now and Eternity

Ewen Coates' new sculptural works are cairn-like forms that one might easily perceive as religious symbols or markers. Cast in bronze, the archaic patina that covers them only adds to this first instinctive impression.

Art Exhibition previously on at Anna Pappas Gallery in Prahran precinct, Victoria, Australia.
From Saturday 11 June 2011 to Sunday 17 July 2011
Launch Friday 10 June 2011, 6-8pm

Satori Discs, 2011 image The Fleeting Now and Eternity, 2011 image

Published by anonymous on Saturday 28 May 2011.
Contact the publisher.

Contemplative, but possibly detached from some ancient and unknowable context, they easily hold ones gaze. Added to this is a dynamic sense of energy: gyrating, pulsating, like dervishes frozen in time. An earlier body of work by Coates focused on people moving through space. Vaporous trails show where these figures had just come from, their presence or energy lingering momentarily behind. Energetic signatures are prominent in these and other works by the artist. A tsunami frozen in time, a body moving through space, energy surging yet suspended in space.

On closer inspection these ancient disk-like forms, which are stacked upright like the segments of Brancusi endless columns, appear to be cast-offs from industrial processes. In fact they are not. Coates has fashioned these shapes himself, throwing them on a potter wheel to get the exact proportions and tapering lines. Once completed shaped then moulded and finally cast in bronze, time is required for the balancing act to occur. Not all comes together simply from piling the pieces up. We realize this especially when the sculptures are clustered together and the negative space that surrounds them is brought vividly to the fore.

Coates is a prolific sculptor and painter and his work can alternate from the politically charged to sardonically humorous in tone. The third turn of his work however is this current formalist focus. But far from rejecting content, the consolidation of his practice is clearly evident here, drawing moreover on processes and observations that might crystallize in these solid yet shimmering forms. Indeed as the artist explains his intent:

“I want to produce forms that ‘cut into’ space, hence rendering them less solid and more equal to the spaces that they find themselves in. I’d like these works to appear as if spliced into their surrounds but still contain a presence. I almost see these objects as negative space in themselves, like after images left on the retina”.

About Ewen Coates
Ewen Coates holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne and a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) from Deakin University, Warrnambool. He has participated in a number of group exhibitions, presenting his work at the National Gallery of Australia, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and at National Sculpture Survey shows such as McClelland Sculpture Survey & Award and Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Prize. Coates was awarded 1st Prize for the 2009 Montalto Sculpture Prize, Victoria and 1st Prize Central Goldfields Regional Art Gallery, Maryborough. His last solo exhibition Post Velcro was presented at Deakin University Art Gallery, Burwood, Victoria in 2010 and Overground at Gippsland Regional Art Gallery, Sale, Victoria in 2007. Coates works are held in various public galleries in Australia including Heide Museum of Modern Art, Werribee Park Sculpture Walk and the Deakin University collection as well as private collections in Australia, United States and United Kingdom.

Cyrus Tang
Though its meaning is nowadays uneasily defined, sculpture in its traditional context stood for such things as carving, casting or modeling, processes through which forms and images were crystallized once extracted from the base materials of the earth. In an ever expanding field however, the options for artists are many. Cyrus Tang for instance is a contemporary artist who has taken to growing her sculptural creations. Neither plant nor animal however; instead a process takes place that is unusual as it is uncanny. Carefully selected butchers bones are saturated in dilute sodium borate then, as a result of the drying process, these skeletal substrates are progressively encrusted by a rock-hard carapace of crystal. The forms, now gleaming and frosty-white are arranged in a way that suggests a city. No ordinary metropolis here, but rather a sparkling citadel, redolent of scifi visions, dream-like streets or possibly manga fantasies. Tang, who was born in Hong Kong, sees her work as an articulation of personal history, a process in which public space is transformed into a zone of psychological intensity. Nostalgia and disappearance are here defining agencies even as they move to erode or envelop. Metaphorically speaking these crystal growths are redolent of this capricious aspect of memory: solidifying yet also distorting.

According to the artist her sense of self is informed by a double displacement, moving from her (colonized) country of origin to a place that serves provisionally, though not altogether convincingly, as home. As the artist herself attests:

“I experience my Asian world as a memory of childhood, of being larger than life and engulfing, even threatening me as a huge thing drifting from my past. My view of present life is like a distant city seen from a descending passenger jet, and also as an unreal model world. Being situated between contrasting remote worlds: Asian and Western culture, childhood memory and present life, l feel like I am placed in a transitional space. I am forever on my way, continually passing through these spaces. I participate in more than one code of belonging and thus inhabit different imaginary geographies”.

In her current installation, titled The Fleeting Now and Eternity, Tang has interspersed her buildings with a scale-electric train. An improvised light, which is mounted on the careening driver carriage cuts through the darkness; it is from this illumination that we discern the shapes of her crystal town.

I am reminded here of so many alien places, of short term stopovers in cities that provide no centre of gravity and all is forbidding and unknown. Where Tang is at pains to communicate a personal vision, it is one that resonates beyond its local remit. Cities outgrow us; they possess a life of their own. They are rigid and adhere to grids and most often it is we who must serve their purpose. Tang however has conjured a biomorphic architecture that is soft and subtly rounded yet also a little more sinister and consuming. Perhaps this is why they stay with us not for the strangeness that possesses them, but for the strangeness of the experience they evoke. Visions of the city they may be, but it is one that is shared by many.

About Cyrus Tang
Originating from Hong Kong, Cyrus Tang graduated in 2009 with an MA in Fine Arts from Monash University, Melbourne, following both a Bachelors and Honours Degree within Fine Art Sculpture and Ceramics. She has held solo exhibitions at Linden-Centre for Contemporary Arts, Shifted Gallery and Westspace. This is Tang second solo show at Anna Pappas Gallery. Since then she has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Australia as well as in Sweden, Canada, Japan and China. She has been the recipient of a number of fellowships and grants including the Georges Mora Foundation Fellowship 2008, Postgraduate Publication Award of Monash University 2008 and The National Gallery of Victoria Trustee Award 2003. Her works are in various public galleries in Australia as well as private collections and Artbank. Tang currently lives and works in Melbourne.