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PhD Examination Exhibition - Steven Carson

Start Date

Feb 27, 2016 12:00 pm

End Date

Mar 6, 2016 5:30 pm

Steven Carson, Tabled 2 (detail image), Vinyl and adhesive tape on PVC plastic, found objects, dimensions variable

Image credit: Steven Carson, Tabled 2 (detail image), Vinyl and adhesive tape on PVC plastic, found objects, dimensions variable

Exhibition opening: Friday 26 February, 5:30pm - 7:00pm

Exhibition dates: Saturday 27 February - Sunday 6 March

Gallery Hours:
Wednesday - Monday 12pm - 5pm during exhibitions
Closed Tuesdays and Public Holidays

The ordinary everyday: exploiting sensations of uncertainty and instability in abstract sculpture and installation artworks. 


Everyday life is full of uncertainty, drudgery, tension and instability.  It is a seemingly endless series of repetitive routines, minutiae and boredom, yet despite the intensity of these sensations much of this takes place within the realm of unnoticed, ordinary existence as the background noise within daily life.  This research aims to establish an aesthetic of uncertainty and instability through which manifestations of the unseen, unnoticed, and unexpected experiences of ordinary life can be visualised within abstract sculpture and installation strategies.

The visual aesthetic and concepts for artworks have been developed through studio based exploration primarily concentrated on activating emotive sensations embedded in commonplace materials and straightforward fabrication processes.  Using the exploratory process of tinkering, approximately 35 distinct studio experiments have been used to test the tolerances and expressive properties of a range of ordinary materials.

Critical reflection on the outcomes of the studio experimentation has focussed the selection of a narrow range of materials such as sign writer's vinyl and adhesive tape, palette wrap, recycled plastic, salvaged cardboard, metal, and found objects and has identified the potential to activate affects through processes of skinning, binding, crushing and crumpling.  Presentation strategies of suspension, the use of movement, propping and stacking are suggestive of instability, and the use of clashing vibrant colours and reflective surfaces enhance the destabilising effect of the forms.  These qualities comprise the aesthetic language of uncertainty and instability, and will guide the development of the final forms for presentation as outcomes of the research.  

The project has been contextualised in relation to artists whose practices exploit the properties of everyday materials, and emphasise certain performative actions within their making process as expressive strategies.  Artists examined include Clay Ketter who through his Sheetrock works explores abstraction with mundane construction materials such as plaster board and Jim Lambie whose use of colourful adhesive vinyl in installation works such as Zobop, 1999 creates a destabilizing, immersive environment.  The work of Phyllida Barlow who deploys ordinary materials including concrete, plaster and wood to produce imposing and uncomfortable large scale installations, and John Bock whose performance and video works reference autobiographical experience and express the sense of hysteria and absurdity, have also been investigated to inform the context for the research.  Theoretical investigations framing the research include writings by Ben Highmore who discusses the significance of the everyday, the mundane and the ordinary, Jane Bennett and Eric Shouse whose works discuss sensation embedded in ordinary materials and the dynamic of Affect, Tim Ingold and John Seely Brown in relation to making and tinkering, and Kirk Varnedoe who offers perspectives on abstraction.   

It is usually not until unexpected encounters and interruptions puncture the repetitious humdrum that we are prompted to feel the presence of a more expansive range of emotions – those fleeting moments of joy and pleasure, disappointment, happiness, and anxiety for example.  Through physical action and performed gestures in the making process in combination with ordinary materials that offer properties such as softness, malleability, tensile strength, and low levels of resistance it is possible to use abstract form to activate a range of sensations experienced in ordinary life.  Furthermore through the use of vibrant and fluorescent colour, patterned and highly detailed reflective surfaces, it is possible to create the effect of allure that shifts and gives way to feelings of uncertainty and instability as artworks reveal their potential to collapse, fall or move within the space of an installation.  Finally the research has affirmed the capacity for abstract sculpture and installation artworks to articulate direct experiences of contemporary everyday life as emotive resonances whilst resisting literal or autobiographical narratives.