RICH WITH ENIGMA
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.