Nike Savvas


Round, an installation by Nike Savvas, invokes thoughts on the delineation of representation and abstraction. The narrow space of CBD Gallery reinforces the duality between Savvas's photographic mural and series of gold panels. Not unlike her recent works, Untitled, 1994 (Artspace, Sydney) and Nice Bubbles, 1994 (Gertrude Street Gallery, Melbourne). Round reflects Savvas's continued interest in decoding systems. Although she deals often with the use of language, particularly between different cultures, this interest in systems is also manifested in her questioning of dominant artistic practices.

Savvas's image for this mural-a tropical, balmy sunset- exemplifies ideals of natural beauty. The appeal of the image, however, may be attributed to its exotic qualities which are heightened by the theatrical light of the sunset. Such a portrayal of a tropical landscape endorses a set of desires emanating from a Western ideology of difference. Unfortunately this contributes to a sense of the image as static, not able to go beyond being a stereotypical landscape that is a substitute for the respective 'exotic' culture. The travel industry has been assiduous in its use of these generic images which do not indicate an actual location so much as encapsulate a Western promise of tranquillity and happiness. To some degree this promise is echoed in Savvas's gold monochromes through the elusiveness of their meaning as reflection of the mural.

When speaking of Round, Savvas has commented on the avant garde tradition of succession of art movements and their dependence on the 'new'. The 'new' was often found in the 'exotic' cultures of Africa and the Pacific, which were considered 'primitive' fodder for Western creative genius. Savvas considers her mural as not only a comment on this avant garde tradition but also on Western consumption of the exotic.

Manufactured as wallpaper and reminiscent of the greater kitsch of the 1970s, the mural's expansive scale connotes a virtual world. However, in Round, a 'virtual escape' is prevented by the inclusion of the colour scale both below and above the image, creating a frame, or alternatively a code for the dissemination of a dream. Placed on the parallel wall and corresponding to this frame are the gold monochromes which reflect a notion of framing in reverse. Instead of guiding a certain perspective of an image, (as the colour scale does in the mural), the gold monochromes emphasise the absence of an image. A tension is developed between the morphological opposition of presence and absence and the positioning of the mural and the monochromes. Yet, in this relative absence the monochromes exist as something more than a signifier for another image; they speak of abstraction in a way that denies the historical accusation, that abstraction, particularly monochromes, are meaningless.

In Round, Savvas comments on the prevalence of monochromes in contemporary practice by way of an oblique inflection. She provides an analogy for considering monochromes that is indicative of the title: Round. The pairing of a remnant from an interior of the 1970s alongside monochromes institutes an 'equivalence' between both the popular (mural) and high art (monochromes). Though this appears to be implying a contextual analysis of an historical period, it instead refers back to monochromes by the emphasis on the surface of the work. lt parodies the belief that monochromes provide meaning only through surface modulation, since in the mural the 'exotic' landscape is reduced to surface value solely and the monochromes offer a distortion of reflective light. Just as the sun setting is one visible element of a cycle, so too are the monochromes, where viewing engenders a glance a/round rather than a direct focus on their demarcation of space. By way of this circulative reference Savvas focuses not simply on the relationship between representation and abstraction but additionally on the role of monochromes in contemporary practice. Round is consistent with Savvas's recent oeuvre because it explores issues pertinent to the way we relate to art practices and our methods of communicating.