Margaret Roberts; Deborah Vaughan; Bevan Honey

Red Check; Eyeful; Split

Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney

12 June- 3 July 2004

The Tin Sheds Gallery, in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney has a long and illustrious history, largely due to its association with the political artwork and activism generated by the associated art workshops throughout the seventies. It has also been a very particular type of large scale, crude industrial gallery which has, in the past, most effectively lent itself to installations which acknowledge and work with the particularities of the space. This gallery has now closed, part of a restructuring of space on the university grounds, and has been replaced by a new gallery in the forecourt of the faculty's Wilkinson Building, a gallery that is the antithesis of the original in shape, scale, fittings and genesis.

The closing of the old and opening of the new galleries was heralded by the exhibition of a suite of artwork: Margaret Roberts' installation Red Check constituting the final exhibition in the old Tin Sheds Gallery, and the works of Sydney artist Deborah Vaughan and Western Australian artist Bevan Honey in the new gallery. Each of these exhibitions, aside from their internal intentions, seemed to suggest a particular take on the gallery relocation.

Margaret Roberts' work explored the material space of the old gallery: it encompassed everything the space is, used the concrete floor, the white-painted brick walls and the space in between through the use of two swings solidly attached to the beams using long, industrial-strength chains. Swinging allowed visitors to inhabit all the space between the floor and ceilings, and converted what was once a machinery workshop into a play space-a place for both regression and for moving on. Roberts rendered giant size rust-red tiles on the floor, and coated these with red iron oxide powder which shifted with every footstep. As the exhibition progressed the integrity of the tiles was dissipated as the oxide powder was spread all across the floor space, up the corridor, into the toilet and the kitchen, slowly infiltrating all the workspaces associated with the gallery, and refusing to be contained within the four gallery walls. The shift from the old to the new gallery was literally evoked in the trail of red footsteps spanning the eighty-odd metres between the two spaces. A performative element-staff on hand with spray and towels-extended the interaction, and the play, between the space and any consumer who did not wish to contribute to the tracking.

Deborah Vaughan's video installations, contained and clean, reflect on the psychoanalytic recognition of the inevitable duality of the self. Fabric stuffed sculptures: bean bags, giant pillow, fluffy white cubes, each act as vessels or recipients of a more technical element in the form of video work, each with a story to tell about the difficulties of constructing a self, a cohesive identity, when 'splitting' is such an essential psychic strategy. The body of work shown included earlier, more personal engagements with this theme, but extended them to a universal consideration of how a country 's identity, and the individual 's within, is constructed. One projection onto an elongated pillow, another country, is of a generic barred, imprisoning space, another, eye full had twin beanbags holding monitors, each showing a videoed eye, which changed from time to time. Sometimes the two eyes matched each other (saw the same way?), sometimes not. Associated with these two pieces, hanging from the walls were a number shapes of Australia, cut from orange felt or fine mesh-not really maps, because they were hung sideways on the wall, they drooped and were reconstituted as unrecognisable drapes, skewed the way the values and politics of this country have been over recent years-and it seems Vaughan is canvassing our confusions about this destabilisation of our cultural self image.

Bevan Honey's work, collectively titled Split, also in the new gallery, had a more architecturally physical presence and intention. A constructivist network of rafters, rendered in aggressive black charcoal, and scenes from a suburban balcony etched deep into ply, were eclectically proposed alongside symmetrical drawings of an apple tree [Apple Tree-Split 1 & 11 (Arbiter)] . Honey's processes seem to be those of an architect and the work could reflect the thoughts about materials, space, objecthood and the monolith which may be considered in the development of an architectural work-however in becomes apparent that he is deconstructing rather than building, exploring ather than procreating.

There is a sense that the insertion of this architectural oriented artwork as part of the first exhibition at the new space acted to metaphorically smooth any disjunction which has existed between the faculty and its art related activities, which in the past have been conducted 'down the road', and with some autonomy.