peter adsett

limen country
William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
8 - 31 March 2001

'Limen' is Latin for a threshold. Peter Adsett's paintings in this recent exhibition are about 'the edge of consciousness'. Consciousness cannot be pictured-any representation of it would be of what the consciousness in question was conscious of. But limits, edges of consciousness can be metaphorically represented by edges in a painting and by a painting's edginess. Uniformly elegant, these works are intended as 'bad' paintings: and 'bad they are in that none seems quite level to the floor and ceiling , and the vertical edges themselves sometimes distort. The paintings have Adsett's hallmark of unaccountability. They unaccountably look adder than they should. The chief motif in each is a square: the motto of the series is Jeremiah's 'He hath shut and enclosed my ways with square stones', (Lamentations, 3, 9). The squares of near black, black built up out of other colours, sometimes stand four-square: sometimes their vertical edges, sometimes their horizontal ones, seem to distort. In most of the pictures one or two horizontal triangles, horizontal edges parallel to the edge of the square, disturb the total composition: we have at once-paradoxically- elegant proportion and a sense of intrusion into, even disruption of, the whole pictorial field . Some compositions can be read as having horizons, and the triangles may be seen as storm-edges. Others remain totally abstract. The external dynamic of Adsett's work is the Northern Territory weather (so storms), or local Indigenous land lore/law (so the 'transcendental' feel). The internal dynamic is always of surprise, disruption by planar distortions, or by the fuzziness of edges which 'ought'-given a Modernist brief of elegance- to be straight. Straight-they would indeed by dead straight. The fuzz is buzz, and perception is challenged by having its expectations disappointed. Elegant painting as bad painting enlivens its own elegance. lt critiques Modernism itself.