are you thinking what i'm thinking: eugene carchesio, cosmic theory

eugene carchesio: cosmic theory
Sellas Gallery, Brisbane
24 September - 12 October, 2002

For Eugene Carchesio this has been a successful year. In July, he had a major retrospective at The University of Queensland Art Gallery, and in September his work went up on the walls of the Queensland Art Gallery, as one of three Australian representatives at the fourth Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Currently exhibiting at Sellas Gallery, in part collaboration with artist Gareth Donnelly, is Carchesio's latest show. Consistent with his previous work, 'Cosmic Theory' demonstrates, once again, the poignant relationship between art and language.

The exhibition consists of two parts: to the right as you enter the gallery are the works of 'Cosmic Theory', and to the left, Carchesio's collaboration with Donnelly. As with his previous exhibitions, the works are arranged in close proximity to one another around the gallery walls. Unfurling like the pages of a codex, each work lends itself to the next, gradually revealing a kind of idiosyncratic text. Yet as you walk around the space, you get the distinct feeling that their meaning is not merely limited to their inscriptions. Rather, what interests Carchesio is that which is beyond the immediacy of language, that is, the body of history that incorporates it and makes it meaningful. For instance, there is no disparity between the formal structures of a geometric shape other than the stippled surface of Carchesio's watercolour works on paper. In fact, this is seen across the breadth of his work from his matchbox collages to his leaf paintings. They are all equivalent and interchangeable, operating, as it where, on the level of the signifier, whose meaning is contingent upon the syntactical relationship between the form of the object and its materiality. However, since the signifier is also the subject of these works, the meaning is not determined by what the signifier represents outside of itself, but rather the contingent nature of the signifier itself.

This can also be seen in his collaboration with Donnelly in which the exchange of images and ideas is metonymic of the signifier's syntactical structure. Amongst these works there are two major forms that this exchange takes, either reproductions or interpretations. An example of the first type of exchange can be seen in Donnelly's tabletop sculpture, which is a reproduction of Carchesio's sculpture Museum of Silence. In the original, Carchesio used a cardboard box filled with plain cardboard cylinders, and across the front wrote the title of the work. In Donnelly's reproduction he has reduced the scale of the work to a fraction of its original size. Its bite size proportions make it almost impossible to experience as a sculpture, that is, as having spatial significance. However, insofar as it exists spatially, it does so both temporally and virtually.

The notion of temporality is twofold, on the one hand it refers to the physical arrangement of the objects within a particular space, and on the other hand it refers to the way in which meaning is constructed abstractly. Underlying the temporal state of objects and their meaning is the virtual. However, insofar as it has no properties outside of language, it also always-already pre-exists language. Thus neither artist can claim provenance for the object or its meaning. The uncertainty that undermines abstract temporal arrangements is beautifully illustrated by the frailty of Donnelly's sculpture. Its cardboard structure will eventually disintegrate, which is symptomatic of the underlying uncertainty inherent over time.  Consequently, there is nothing about either Carchesio's or Donnelly's work that does not yield to the conditions of the virtual. Likewise, the museum space is also no longer guaranteed by location or time and as such, the exhibition space and the works themselves constitute a singular yet limitless whole.