RICH WITH ENIGMA

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - VISUAL ARTS -

MID­DLE GROUND

Am­ber Koroluk-Stephen­son Bett Gallery

Un­til Novem­ber 10 Price range: $2800-$14,400

While the many tour­ing shows that come to Ho­bart are of­ten very en­gag­ing, there’s a rich re­ward to be had in fol­low­ing the ca­reers of Tas­ma­ni­an­based artists. Par­tic­u­larly en­gross­ing is that rare mo­ment when one stum­bles on some­one early in their ca­reer, and their work is not quite fully formed, but there’s a strong prom­ise of some­thing bet­ter to come. It’s a very slow form of ex­cite­ment, but as time passes and the ex­hi­bi­tions and new works emerge, the art does in­deed evolve. In the case of Am­ber Koroluk-Stephen­son, her de­vel­op­ment has been very re­ward­ing, and while it’s a tired cliche, this new show is the one that has re­ally brought home the ba­con.

Early in Koroluk-Stephen­son’s ca­reer the di­rec­tion her art would take was ap­par­ent in a large, am­bi­tious work called Par­adise Dream­ing that mixed in­stal­la­tion art strate­gies with a strong de­vo­tion to paint­ing.

She used the lan­guage of theatre, mix­ing the ob­vi­ously ar­ti­fi­cial with re­al­ism, to­gether with no­tions of what is real and what might not be. She asked how do we see land­scape , and how do we present it as an idea.

The work moved through an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sub­ur­bia and ar­rived at where she is now: a com­plex dis­cus­sion partly about colo­nial­ism and partly about Aus­tralian art. Or it could be. Koroluk-Stephen­son’s art, more than any other thing, is rich with enigma and is some­times sim­ply in­ef­fa­ble. It will not be pinned down, it’s slip­pery and can defy anal­y­sis.

In this show there’s an amaz­ing work, Some­where In The Mid­dle ,a trip­tych that’s dou­ble sided and free­stand­ing like one of those screens we see in pe­riod drama, that noone has any more. This work cap­tured my at­ten­tion: it seemed to be one wherein Koroluk-Stephen­son ex­am­ines her own ap­proach. A hall­mark of her art is the un­seen: there’s al­ways some­thing pos­si­bly go­ing on just out of the frame, be­hind the wall, or up the stairs. With this work, we know there’s an­other im­age we can’t al­ways see: we can

never see ev­ery an­gle of the work, and we’re not sup­posed to, yet the two sides are re­lated. They are the same work.

Koroluk-Stephen­son wants us to con­sider what we’re miss­ing, and asks us to ex­trap­o­late.

There are no an­swers, only rid­dles we’re left to pon­der. A strong new tac­tic across this show is the in­clu­sion of paint­ings of paint­ings; iconic art­works by oth­ers ap­pear again and again in these works, in­clud­ing, Big Blue Laven­der Bay, a no­to­ri­ous forged paint­ing that was passed off as be­ing by Brett White­ley. It’s an ex­am­i­na­tion of what we see and what we at­tribute those things with, and a re­minder that we can be hood­winked.

This no­tion — that some­thing is go­ing on else­where, and we need to look again, and get past our as­sump­tions — has long been present in Koroluk-Stephen­son’s work, but it’s with this show that she most strongly re­alises this idea.

She hasn’t changed, rather she’s be­come more true to her­self, and her paint­ings have grown in their rich com­plex­ity, blos­som­ing like alien plants, rich and strange.

Koroluk-Stephen­son was al­ways good, but this show is a real bench­mark for her. It’s like she’s ar­rived at where she was head­ing.

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