Marianne Baillieu

In search of Nirvana
Karen Lovegrove Gallery, Melbourne

The circular paintings in this recent exhibition denote a new field of experiment for Marianne Baillieu. Previously confined to square or rectangular formats , her textured surfaces have manifest central, rising forms; referencing spiritual philosophy. At Lovegrove 's, Baillieu 's seductive, impasto fragments cohere across global canvases. Alchemical blue and gold dominate the three works. Extra-pictorial associations prevail: indexes of tangible physical gesture loaded with metaphors for universal and individual existence.

The received system of identity harnessed by Baillieu 's adoption of gestural abstraction attracts recontextualisation. Post-industrial discourse has defined expressionism as a spent project, aesthetic rather than disruptive, lacking value and credence in the 'authentic self' of the artist. Utopian transcendentalism and the sublime redemptive are counterparts to the appeal of hidden order and common underlying form in nature-all untenable clich├ęs in many contemporary theories. Obsession with critical definition distorts Baillieu's confrontation with the canvas, the conduit of desire. The round canvases recuperate a female being-ness, a strength of identity existing for itself.

Coagulated coils of paint and smeared fingerprints trace the movement of desire across the skin of the canvas. Gesture circulates, fragments and resolves. Reading across the canvases, "all-over-ness" is refined into a lighter physical and colouristic touch, resisting centripetal/centrifugal movement. Baillieu has used her body to inscribe spatial territories which are not enclosed or encoded. Ignoring aesthetic hierarchies and the limitations of structured space, Baill ieu overcomes the impossibility of expression in a phallocentric order.

Logical systems of science and mathematics have historically inferred utopian constructions of form and space. Chaos theory destroyed the domination of symmetry, recognizing irregularity, the unpredictable. Boundaries between nature and artifice have become blurred and matters and bodies become abstracted in time and space. The viewers of Baill ieu's works move with in the temporal space determined by the juxtaposition of the paintings with three tables, laden with empty, blackened paint tubes. Static painterly implements colonise past and present, creating an indefinite temporality within the gallery. The floating non-pulsed time recalls the Aeon of Deleuze and Guattari, "an already there that is at the same time not-yethere, a simultaneous too-late and too-early, a something that is both going to happen as has just happened."

Even as phenomena are perceived as nonlinear, unmeasurable and irrational in behaviour, science postulates laws to reduce and to simplify. A universe mythically created out of disorder is formalised from infinite void into reason. Baillieu's paintings transgress the physicality of production, folding past and future, cause and effect in the freedom of the indefinite space of painting. Baillieu negates the split between body and soul, sexuality and spirituality. In the words of Helene Cixous: "Her language does not contain, it carries, it does not hold back, it makes possible." Acting within the boundaries of abstract expression, for so long defined as patriarchal , rhetorical and romantic, oscillation between chaos and unity creates space for discourse and articulation.