Ste­vie Field­send here­after

Art Almanac - - Art In Australia - Eleanor Ze­ich­ner

Amer­i­can au­thor Adri­enne Rich wrote in her 1976 book Of Woman Born: On Moth­er­hood as an Ex­pe­ri­ence and In­sti­tu­tion, ‘All hu­man life on the planet is born of woman. The one uni­fy­ing, in­con­tro­vert­ible ex­pe­ri­ence shared by all women and men is that months-long pe­riod we spent un­fold­ing in­side a woman’s body.’ The un­fold­ing that new life pre­cip­i­tates, at first hid­den and pri­vate, then propul­sive and vis­ceral, is cap­tured in the ma­te­rial ex­plo­ration of Ste­vie Field­send’s new se­ries here­after.

A se­ries of wall-based sculp­tural works of vary­ing sizes and for­mats draw the viewer to closely ob­serve their mak­ing. Tightly folded pleats of fab­ric strain and droop, cre­at­ing kinks and fis­sures that re­veal white be­neath oxblood red. The fab­ric re­sists con­tain­ment, spilling over the frame, fan­ning out­wards like a flower. The ma­te­rial’s au­ton­omy im­plies the porous­ness of the borders of the hu­man body, the fe­male body, vul­ner­a­ble to the ef­fects of time and grav­ity. The un­fold­ing feels in­trin­sic and fated.

As Field­send says, ‘In­te­gral to my work is a sense of move­ment, a feel­ing of fall­ing, the grav­i­ta­tional pull of weight, of ar­riv­ing, go­ing to, com­ing from, let­ting go, cy­cles of leav­ing and re­turn­ing and leav­ing again.’ In their suc­cumb­ing, these works also im­ply the col­lapse and de­cay of the hu­man body af­ter death. The show’s ti­tle im­plies an event hori­zon, a ‘from-now-on’ that casts off the past but for­ever bears the marks of its pass­ing.

Field­send’s prac­tice is process driven and in­tu­itive, en­trust­ing ma­te­ri­als with free­dom to do what they need to do. As she ex­plains, ‘Any ma­te­rial I use needs to cap­ture my won­der, it has to keep sur­pris­ing me.’ Her 2016 se­ries mira mira, also at Arte­real, sim­i­larly used warped and rup­tured fab­ric to re­veal a shock of cobalt blue be­neath gold. In this con­text, the tex­tile im­plied the magic of sump­tu­ous theatre drapes or the psy­che­delic gills of a mush­room. Field­send re­ceived her train­ing in glass at Syd­ney Col­lege of the Arts and JamFac­tory Craft and De­sign Cen­tre; per­haps as a re­sult her ap­proach to ma­te­ri­als is de­cid­edly sen­sual and mer­cu­rial. In her 2014 ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Um­bra’, which ex­plored the po­tency of Malu, the Samoan rit­ual tat­too which cov­ers women’s up­per legs, vis­cous molten glass shapes in­ter­played with the swish of fringe and the dig­ni­fied bear­ing of charred tree trunks.

More re­cent sculp­tural work has used black and flesh-toned panty­hose, an­other con­tainer for women’s bod­ies. Also ex­hib­ited in ‘Um­bra’, bul­bous masses of tinted glass weigh down the panty­hose, test­ing their strength and stretch. A more re­cent work, The Lingers, in­cluded in a group ex­hi­bi­tion at Arte­real Gallery in April 2018, is stuffed with masses of polyester fab­ric. The panty­hose are sewn to­gether into fleshy tubes, spilling ev­ery which way. Their abun­dance feels ex­ces­sive, al­most de­fi­ant. Field­send writes that this work is ‘about how feel­ings can be­come over­whelm­ing and take on a life of their own, how we can be hi­jacked by our phys­i­o­log­i­cal sen­sa­tions which then spark into thought which then be­comes our per­ceived re­al­ity.’ This work ren­ders those dark thoughts as a phys­i­cal pres­ence, a lit­eral ele­phant in the room.

A new free­stand­ing sculp­tural work in here­after (2018) fur­ther ex­plores the phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of this ma­te­rial. Stuffed with the same tinted pleated fab­ric as the wall works, the dense mass of flesh-coloured stock­ings twists and binds it­self to­gether. Pro­laps­ing forms bulge and worm

to­wards a ver­ti­cal­ity that seems pro­vi­sional, as though the work is test­ing out its own strength. Field­send de­scribes her ex­plo­ration of an idea through new ma­te­ri­als as a ‘di­a­logue of in­tent, ges­tu­ral ac­tions; of re­act­ing, of push­ing it to its lim­its, of re­spond­ing to its pos­si­bil­i­ties, the pull of grav­ity and the way it falls and of fail­ing and of tri­umph.’

‘The power of Ste­vie’s work lies within it be­ing so deeply felt and per­sonal – yet also ex­pres­sive of and iden­ti­fi­able with the uni­ver­sal hu­man con­di­tion,’ says ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Bar­bara Dowse. In­evitable to Adri­enne Rich’s evo­ca­tion of the uni­ver­sal­ity of ges­ta­tion and birth is its op­po­site – de­cay and death – and the works in this se­ries hold the two in del­i­cate balance.

Eleanor Ze­ich­ner is a writer from Syd­ney and cur­rent As­sis­tant Cu­ra­tor at UTS Gallery.

Arte­real Gallery Syd­ney

7 No­vem­ber to 1 De­cem­ber, 2018 here­after ii,

2018, pa­per, pleated polyester tex­tile on can­vas, Tas­ma­nian Oak, 37 x 43 x4cm Pho­to­graph: Zan Wim­ber­ley

Cour­tesy the artist and Arte­real Gallery, Syd­ney

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