Anne Lord and Shaun Kirby


No longer a documenter of the eternal silence in the vast spaces between Townsville and Julia Creek, Anne Lord has come to the continent's edge. Having always eschewed the mawkish treatments so temptingly available with outback subject matter, Lord now steady's her gaze on civilisation or perhaps the lack of it, in the feral cracks and hollows found between the boulders of Townsville's cyclonic battlements to the ocean, The Strand.

Fixing herself into the narrowest, most vulnerable and iconic of landscapes and one common to so many of Australia's coast-clinging towns and cities, Lord examines the banal secrets of the crevasses. Amid take-away detritus, she draws her audience into a time-frame which she reprograms to fast forward. This is achieved in a floor installation where photographs of her site are sealed into glass bricks containing mordant baths and allowed to rapidly degenerate. These 'parcels' of time, trap, accelerate and amplify a process usually too slow to trigger human flight or fight responses.

Appropriately, repelling notions of tourist strip cheer but, to this writer's disappointment, denying her audience the option of seeing light through the glass bricks (one side faces the floor) , Lord presents her assorted secrets of the site in portable sized purgatories or, perhaps, snow domes for a sick cityscape, replete with tropical humidity.

This installed regeneration of The Strand experience is drawn large at each end of the gallery wall with paper emblems of disintegrating littered objects. Three dimensional moulded paper squares arranged four by four, moth the shape of foam on the beach. From a distance however they become a gridded ill ustration of a point where the image, of a coke bottle in one instance, hovers, aching with entropy at the edge of recognition as a product of human manufacturing.

Anne Lord's FOLD however also reflects a rigorous if somewhat austere determination which ensures that her site of subject matter be engaged, warts and all. Lord's sincerity is unquestionable, though once The Strand experience is regenerated through her considerable technical processes into a gridded formal arrangement, the site becomes something more akin to a control sample in a social science investigation instead of a place where people race cars, rob, get drunk, throw up and shoot up.

In another FOLD grouping (no works are labeled in FOLD), Lord submerges photographs from the site including satellite imagery of North Queensland, historical maps of the site and surrounds, and an image of discarded personal belongings most likely following a snatch and grab. In this photograph in particular the imagery broke through the 'manners' of presentation to evoke a strong sense of empathy for an unknown stranger's personal loss. At The Strand, personal identity had been violated before a disinterested public. In this photograph however, attention is reignited. Lord is careful not to identify the lost wallet's owner, but this does not detract from the impact. We cannot help but feel for the owner of the lost 'plastic', in itself telling of our time.

One of the strongest and frequently recurring attributes of Anne Lord's work is an approach to mark making and surface treatment that suggests a disintegration or particularization of the surface. Her intense but ever so pale screen prints of the eighties pictured landscapes verging on dissolution into light. This occurs in another guise in her Journeys into Unfamiliar Territories from 1989 where again landscape was atomised in near microscopic cuts and gouges. Her Stoneface of 1992 reworks a similar vein in which flesh seems to dissolve into stone or vice-versa.

Works in the present series which included Material Problems 1, (1994) and ROT, (1995/6) see Lord addressing, among other things, contemporary information-based culture that produces and discards more printed information than ever before, while simultaneously consuming the planet's forests way beyond sustainability. Notions of the infinite pervade her rendering but, ironically, contrast with the settings of a doubtful future she finds in the cultural remains of The Strand.

It is not unlikely that Lord sees infinity more clearly in loss; or perhaps her collected objects of manufactured endlessness lend themselves as icons which once discarded, embody loss in a physical form.

Manipulating the idea of loss or absence through material form is also of interest to Shaun Kirby, the other artist of this FOLD.

Kirby came to town with a suitcase of objects that seem maddeningly familiar but remain just beyond recognition.Here are garments for multiple and illusive speculation and with more than a little humour. What we see are eight wall mounted tea towel holders, each draped with a pale green organza-like nylon stocking shape which has, sewn near to its end, two 'eyes' which on closer examination revealed themselves to be toy 'bullet hole' transfers mounted on clear plastic. Army town icons, these forms provide a 'window' to an absence or perhaps a kind of inside-out soul. Their arrangement indicates that they were responsible for the rapid loss of unknown contents. Irony twists interpretation, given that the 'eyes' are transparent but solid holes whereas the nylon 'container' is completely porous. The sheer lightness and sense of inviolable visual hygiene of these items reinforces their presence. One even suspects a certain tactile anticipation by the artist, contemplating a fabric which might evoke the feel of high humidity against the skin.

Kirby's work is informed by diverse fields of discourse, one of the most significant being psychology. One term he grafts into an artworld application, subject formation, loosely describes how one comes to be what one is, as the ever forming, reforming and performing self that presents itself to the world. Kirby borrows another term, the liminal or threshold moment, when change is about to occur in an individual's development, puberty being the most obvious. These he sees as the most likely moments at which one will become aware of the nature of self and therefore they are conducive to revelation and discovery. Kirby is fascinated by the ever-shifting layering of self and in his work seeks vehicles to stimulate such speculations. Cavities and negative spaces beneath and between the layers are very significant to this meaning, as are the coverings that serve to obscure or even repress the presence of these spaces.

Shaun Kirby's installation plays with this notion by deflating the stocking shape and presenting what one feels is an absence of form, following the likelihood that whatever tangible 'contents' which might once have been, have now escaped or were never really contained.

Where Lord sees take-away as throw away and indicative of a culture that anticipates and in a sense commodities loss itself in a disintegrating moment – archaeological impressionism if you like – Kirby inhabits the inner spaces of personal enquiry where absence is appropriately ambiguous and crucial to our apprehension of form and thought itself, as we know and cannot know it. Folded are two quite different boundaries of the experience of absence and loss. One public, geographical, and aggressively ephemeral, the other personal, psychological and aesthetically acute.