Wednesday, November 7, 2007


[KRIS COAD : "WAITING..." , at Diane Tanzer Gallery, Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
October 20-November 17,2007]


As one artist to another : our currency is response. Being a friend of the artist exacerbates the obligation (Robert Duncan : responsibility is the ability to respond), & propels the urgency.
I assume, now, exquisite ceramics from Kris Coad, and the chamotte clay tiles & stools & the bone-china shoes in her new exhibition, Waiting..., reward that expectation. One must constantly remind oneself of the sophistication of her work lest familiarity blunts ones appreciation of her true & tried craft nous. Her piece in the Contamination group-exhibition at the Gasworks, Albert Park (18/10 -28/10/07), is yet another example of her ability to make exquisite ceramic art of simple themes & familiar objects : viewed from the notional front, pillow-cases on a clothes-line; from the back, the garments within the translucent pillow-cases; on the near wall, a product of the entire exhibition's theatre-lighting, the clothes'-like shadows, a wonderful bonus for the particular work.
It's an irony, though, that the deliberate theatrical staging of the Gasworks show, the Gasworks' house-style I think (individually lit pieces within the large darkened area), fully expresses the innate drama of the work itself --a work (Washing Day) which probably wouldnt demand an entire show's focus as does Waiting...'s clearly connected tableaux at Tanzer's. But what the room at Tanzer's required, in my opinion, was a gradation of light appropriate to the different tableaux, especially for one I initially thought was the single piece but as the price-list clearly indicates is in fact three! And, in my mind, those three of seven tableaux do create an installation of their own, utterly different in its suggestivity to the remainder of the room. The expectedly exquisite smaller pieces --e.g., stool, tile, shoes --are disarmingly elegant, but the largest tableaux, the intended work or my fabrication, is something else again!
A week or so ago, on first visiting Kris's exhibition, I assumed that the entire room was an installation, an unfolding though mysterious narrative. And I wasnt going to be diverted by the artist's title or, paradoxically, by the beauty of her tiles, stools, & shoes. I was consumed by the riddle also appreciated, I realized, in the penultimate sentences of Sarah Bond's catalogue-note --"Is there another room to enter and should I remove my own shoes out of respect? Have they been collected here for another purpose?"
Remove my own shoes? O God, I thought, remove myself; so difficult to be there as the awful feeling grew in me & around me that Kris Coad's largest tableaux was no homage to an Asian temple but the ante-room of something like a dungeon of no return, even one of the death camps' ghastly ovens.
Waiting? Of course, objects always await their narrators. They are, if you like, referred subjects themselves --perfect in themselves but inanimate. It is human presence/absence (Buddhist living/dying?) which dynamises them. Whatever they are is not narrative. But mercy : mercy, mercy, mercy : the owners of these shoes werent ever coming back...
One of Kris Coad's signatures is the illuminated object (electric light artfully deployed upon the unique texture of her pieces). So possessed was I by the macabre stillness of the large tableaux that I saw candles within the shoes, little shoe candles, little flickerings for the departed souls, diminutive sepulchres. I wished then for muted lighting or darkness except for the few lit shoes & whatever filtered in from outside the gallery. However, I completely accept the comment made to me by Ursula Dutkiewicz, when we discussed these issues at the Gasworks last week, that there is a world of difference between a commercial gallery & something like the Gasworks, a space given over to its artists. So, of course, one understands & accepts the definitive tension in a commercial gallery between commercial & aesthetic imperatives. Tanzer's does well in this context : the grey wall at right angles to one tableaux, the large white screen contextualising the largest work, are crucial theatrical props. Priceless, as it were.
This is Kris Coad's first large room : her work deserved it! She filled it! No waiting for Kris Coad! The artist's arrived!

--Kris Hemensley
October 28-November 7,2007

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