16th July – 14th August 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks
Stuart Ringholt’s practice encompasses performance, sculpture, video and writing. Throughout his deployment of these forms there is a characteristic sense of adjusted perspective, revealing new views through simple re-workings of familiar images. Common to his framed collages, small-scale sculptures and performative workshops, Ringholt’s process of art-making involves the alteration of existing images, objects and states. These changes are not radical or extreme, but simple movements whose modesty belie the significant shift in meaning they assert. Ringholt’s ‘re-works’ appear absurd, often comical and always surprising.
Ringholt’s Anger Workshops, commissioned by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney and held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, invited volunteers from the biennale audience to participate in a performative ‘workshop’. Participants were led by the artist through a series of simple tasks that helped them to identify, and express, feelings of love and anger. By working through a set formula of basic actions, each participant emerged from the experience somewhat reformed. The workshop offered an opportunity to engage bodily with Ringholt’s method of making art, and demonstrated the transformative power of contemporary art on daily life.
The solo exhibition Low Sculpture (Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, 2008), employed mass-produced objects for examination and dissection. Attaching spray-can nozzles to crumpled cans of energy drink, fixing rubber teats on to the filter-end of cigarettes, and removing the central section of a plastic chair, Ringholt ‘edited’
the function of these familiar products to render their normal uses impossible. These defiant configurations provoked absurd humour instead of providing expected convenience. Literally low to the floor, unmediated by the conventional white plinth, the works created a stage for movement where the viewer directly shared a space with the object, again bringing art closer to lived experience.
The artist’s new exhibition Vitrines, at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney – which comprises five glass display cases– bears Ringholt’s mark of the unexpected. Located within each vitrine is a number of Artforum magazines, each one opened to reveal collaged articles and advertisements. Documentation of other artists’ works – mostly advertisements, sanctioned by the artists and their galleries – are upturned by simple gestures that bring alternative meanings to otherwise static images. Precise circles are cut from the pages and then rotated or replaced: in some cases the same circle is rotated in place, in other cases the hole is patched with a circle from another page. Each cut begins a new dialogue between images, disrupting the pristine photography as well as the magazine’s carefully planned sequence of pages, and opens up a void into which new visions are projected. Intermittently, pages feature duplicate elements cut from a second copy of the same issue of the magazine, repeating excerpts of text or image. With careful sleight of hand, Ringholt removes artworks from their plinths making two- dimensional drawings from sculptures that were once physical: a weighty Franz West sculpture oats in mid-air; a kinetic Roman Signer loses all gravitational force. By repositioning the art object in relation to its support, the works become diagrams for Ringholt’s way of reading; literal shifts in perspective.
Completing the cycle from sculpture, through photography and print, to collage, and now objects inside vitrines, these images once again assert a physical presence. Ringholt’s vitrines, whilst referencing museum displays, are more closely aligned with their shop-fitting counterparts – the glass and aluminium forms are more pragmatic than those usually seen in art galleries. Their modesty is consistent with Ringholt’s ‘garden variety’ aesthetic and economy of means. By engaging others’ art as the subject of his own, and by appropriating a conventional mode of display as a component of his sculpture, Ringholt turns the art-making process on its head – and places it back on to the plinth.
Ash Kilmartin, 2010