Poimena Art Gallery
Launceston, Tasmanie
March 11 – May 6, 2021

Feel a gravitational pull towards reflection, contemplation and calm.

Take a deep breath as you walk into the Poimena Art Gallery. Slow down your thoughts. In a time of social, political and emotional disruption, this contemplative exhibition will provide space for you to sink away from the stresses of your daily life. Become lost in the orbit of 43 artists from Australia and around the world whose reflective work was produced during 2020.

Curated by Tasmanian artist Paul Snell.


Opening speech by Sean Kelly

‘It is what it is’ is such a frustrating statement. Usually, its utterance implies a lack of critical or analytical capacity, often tinged perhaps with defensiveness, or even a lack of inclination to engage. It can of course also refer on a higher plane to the truly ineffable or inexplicable – still somewhat frustrating. Yet in this excellent exhibition deftly curated by Paul Snell it finally has value and real meaning.

The 43 artists in this exhibition are only broadly linked stylistically in their commitment to abstraction, but the overriding conceptual connection is that their art demands a commitment from the viewer to engage with the elemental nature of the work, to accept that it is what it is, no more and no less.

The plethora of terms which could be employed to theoretically ‘place’ these various works could include, minimalist, reductive, purist, non-objective, concrete, hard edge abstract, materialist, formless, retinal, abject…and the list goes on.

As soon as we get involved in the limitations of such defining, we move away from the artwork, or we push it away. As Susan Sontag has elucidated, we effectively kill it, neutralise it.

Laurien Renckens states of her work – ‘one loses oneself in them’. We find ourselves in a new world of ‘delayed observation’.  ‘You have to surpass a threshold, to feel at home vis-à-vis this work.’ And this is essentially true in relation to all the work in Orbit.

What is required is a willing submission. We often tend to look beyond the phenomenon of what is actually happening, what is actually there. We avoid the key confrontation which is actually one of submission to the, often ineffable, nature of the experience.

The curator states that the exhibition is an ‘invitation for contemplation and reflection, providing an escape from the daily narrative offering a gravitational pull to other thoughts, processes and ideas. In this way it forms a response to a time of social, political and emotional disruption’.

Entering into these works leaves space for a direct engagement with the phenomena which the works employ/evoke which can involve a transcendence as well as a visceral engagement with the pure essences and dynamics generated by the artist. These may often be defined as the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  Artist Kāryn Taylor provides a luminous exploration of contained space reflecting our unknowing of the physical world while Tomislav Nikolic utilises implied depth and advancement to create an active visual dynamic which is never entirely settled. Time is also a highly significant factor in this show – not just the time required for deep engagement but the time of production which is crucial in Nancy Constandelia’s work which may seem inconclusive and indirectly records the process itself.

Process and materiality are central to Orbit. While Khesin, Snoek, Pesce, de Mentis and Windisch engage the physical properties of their media directly, even to the extent of allowing the final form of the work to be determined by the way in which the material forms itself through the dynamics of gravity and accretion in some cases.

The dynamics of the artwork may operate in how they work within a frame or bounded area, from the powerful geometric abstraction of Liam Snootle or to the subtle ‘field’ versus ‘edge’ which is explored by Taylor, Craik, Alexander, Terburg, Keating, Boeker and others. Butterworth and Snell’s work crosses both of these territories incorporating a refined subtle surface backed by, or intruded into, by a raw accretion of disparate materials.

Refined, ‘cool’ constructed works (Wilkinson, Idiens, Parni, Thomson, Andrews and Renckens etc), are balanced by dynamic raw painterly engagements, (Holt, Hart) yet these two have a strong investment in what I refer to as the ‘field’/’edge’ dynamic.

The artists in this show demonstrate real confidence and a deep understanding of what a rich aesthetic experience is. The power is in the honesty and confidence with which these artists work, and the faith they have in the capacity of materials and pure formal engagement to resolve into something transcendent, thus, these works are entirely convincing, at a very pure sensory and intellectual level.

Seán Kelly