Mikala Dwyer

7th February – 29th March 2014
Anna Schwartz Gallery

The Con­ver­sion Artist

The appar­ent stark­ness and con­cise­ness of Mikala Dwyer’s exhi­bi­tion Hol­low­work’ belies an entan­gled net­work of con­nec­tions. The seem­ing­ly non-nav­i­ga­ble rela­tion­ship between mind and body, the com­mon line through the gen­er­a­tions of a fam­i­ly, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of tele­path­ic con­nec­tion between minds are explored; join­ing across space and time with the works of Dwyer’s exist­ing oeu­vre, and those of her peers and precedents.

The immense orange-red steel form, Hol­low­work’, is Dwyer’s re-mak­ing of a ring that her moth­er, Dorothy Dwyer, once fab­ri­cat­ed in sil­ver. On such a scale the work also refers to the hard-edged for­mal­ist sculp­ture that was devel­oped by artists of Dorothy Dwyer’s age; artists whose mas­sive met­al mon­u­ments now sit incon­spic­u­ous­ly in the urban land­scape of pub­lic parks and cor­po­rate fore­courts. The cul­ti­vat­ed rust of its sur­face is a dead­pan reflec­tion of the built envi­ron­ment of Mel­bourne, whose lead­ing archi­tects – those of the artist’s own gen­er­a­tion – have clad the city in this same mate­r­i­al, a sub­stance that shows the effects over time of nature on the per­me­able sur­face of culture.

Beyond the often mas­cu­line state­ments of mid-cen­tu­ry sculp­ture and con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture, Hol­low­work’ con­tin­ues a dis­tinct­ly fem­i­nine lega­cy. Passed from moth­er to daugh­ter, the shape of the sculp­ture is awk­ward­ly organ­ic, like a frag­ment of pelvic bone; it also speaks of time: some­thing ancient, archa­ic, passed down through ages, tele­scop­ing from the past into the future like a set of mor­ph­ing Russ­ian dolls, nev­er tru­ly emp­ty. For Dwyer, the work is hol­low not only in the jeweller’s terms (being fab­ri­cat­ed around a void, thus being lighter to wear and con­sum­ing a small­er amount of expen­sive met­al than a sol­id piece) but also hol­low’ in the sense that the artist her­self has not invent­ed the form, it is emp­ty of her own hand. Of course, this mod­esty is unnec­es­sary: Dwyer has applied to the ring a char­ac­ter­is­tic process of trans­for­ma­tion and regen­er­a­tion. This is less an emp­ty­ing of mean­ing or idea, than a mate­ri­al­i­sa­tion of the full scale of the original’s impor­tance. When struck, a hol­low object resounds and echoes, amplified.

Dwyer’s The weight of shape bal­ances between ceil­ing and floor, hov­er­ing in and around the viewer’s field of vision. If Hol­low­work’ is the mate­ri­al­i­sa­tion of a cer­tain rela­tion­ship, The weight of shape is a phys­i­cal demon­stra­tion of thought pat­terns: at once geo­met­ric and organ­ic; syn­thet­ic and nat­ur­al; opaque and translu­cent; slick and porous; flat and volup­tuous; at some moments sta­t­ic and then unex­pect­ed­ly and uncon­trol­lably mobile. A kind of cor­po­re­al day­dream about the inte­ri­or of the mind, The weight of shape pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the dis­tinct depart­ments of think­ing to be nego­ti­at­ed phys­i­cal­ly, and per­haps rearranged. A mass of asso­ci­a­tions, the swing­ing objects are, again, frag­ments from the fer­tile zone of consciousness.

A col­lab­o­ra­tion between Dwyer and Matthys Ger­ber, the paint­ed dip­tych Stepa Nova echoes Dwyer’s pre­vi­ous murals, such as the mas­sive Spell for Cor­ner in Dwyer’s exhi­bi­tion Gold­ene Bend’er’ at ACCA in 2013. Guid­ed by a mutu­al­ly-agreed set of for­mal and prac­tice rules, the artists togeth­er set out a hard-edged abstract design and then, indi­vid­u­al­ly, select­ed exact­ly six colours, attempt­ing to agree on this ele­ment with­out shar­ing any ver­bal or visu­al infor­ma­tion. Try­ing to work togeth­er tele­path­i­cal­ly, each artist alone paint­ed a pan­el of the ditych which now exists as the result of this exper­i­ment in work­ing togeth­er, apart.

The title of the work invokes the Russ­ian painter Vavara Stepano­va (18541958), whose Con­struc­tivist com­po­si­tions set art to use in ser­vice of a wider social good. It also goes some way to describe the process by which the artists arrived at this dual­ly-authored piece, step­ping over, trans­fer­ring, and trans­gress­ing nor­mal modes of communication.

A cer­tain telepa­thy does indeed exist between each of Dwyer’s works, those here and many of those absent. It is as though the arc of these three new works are a sec­tion of a much larg­er iter­a­tion of Dwyer’s ongo­ing rit­u­al­is­tic cir­cles The Addi­tions and Sub­trac­tions. As in Ave­bury, Wilt­shire, where the sweep­ing Neolith­ic cir­cle of stand­ing stone is sim­ply too great to see as a whole, view­ers of Dwyer’s work must expe­ri­ence each work in rela­tion to its imme­di­ate neigh­bours, but read it from an imag­ined birds-eye view, or from the cen­tre of the broad, emp­ty circle.

The exhibition’s title, Hol­low­work’, is also spe­cif­ic to Dwyer’s treat­ment of the gallery space. Housed between the walls of the gallery and the forms of Dwyer’s scaled-up sculp­tures, peer­ing through the tube of a corten ring, through loops of cop­per, to flat cir­cles of acrylic, the view­er finds them­selves inside the O, encir­cled, the neg­a­tive space with­in the pos­i­tive, the ground to the works’ fig­ure. The void of the gallery is full of voids, and full voids at that. Like mag­ic, Dwyer con­jures some­thing from nothing.


Mikala Dwyer

Hol­low­work (after Dorothy Dwyer), 2013
Corten steel
150230100 cm

Mikala Dwyer

The weight of shape, 2014
Acrylic, fibre­glass, cop­per, ceram­ic, bronze, brass, stain­less steel, steel and rope
Dimen­sions vari­able, approx­i­mate height: 350 cm

Mikala Dwyer

Stepa Nova, 2014
Acrylic on Bel­gian linen
127.5366 cm