Abstracted is the inaugural exhibition for Flux Gallery, a shared initiative with the Perth Centre for Photography (PCP). Premised upon two poles of abstraction, organic and geometric, this exhibition weaves together the work of five artists that share a commitment to experimentation but a difference in formal approach. These threads bind the works together simultaneously pull them apart – making Abstracted a dynamic and playful viewing experience that will appeal to a broad audience.
Located in the King Street Art Centre, Flux Gallery sits directly behind PCP’s street-front exhibition space. Having the two galleries in such close proximity aims to generate “a cross pollination of ideas and networks” between photography and non-photographic mediums. Invited by Flux Gallery to curate their first show, Sandra Murray has pulled together an all-Western Australian cast for Abstracted including Jennifer Cochrane, Tom Freeman, Chris Hopewell, Ian Williams and Gera Woltjer. Murray is an experienced exponent of Western Australian contemporary art, having previously worked for Bankwest, in 2014 Murray launched the Bankwest Art Prize for Sculpture. This new initiative now rotates with the original prize, the prior having previously only accepted two-dimensional works. Murray has retained her responsiveness to diversity in Abstracted by selecting a mixture of sculpture, ceramics, installation and painting. This selection also delivers on the promise to generate an interesting contrast to PCP’s all-photography show.
Flux Gallery is traditionally lit and white-walled, the entrance has a low ceiling which extends to the middle of the space before cutting off to a larger open area with a high ceiling; the building’s physical construction itself mimics the play amongst small and large scale works on exhibition. Acting as the centre piece is Jennifer Cochrane’s Impossible Shadow #14 (2019), a large geometric structure with strength and weight that zig-zags in shape across the floor. Comprised of industrial aluminium tubing and galvanised fittings, it provides a curious juxtaposition to Tom Freeman’s glazed stoneware vessels. Organically shaped with spindly legs, lumps and bumps, four of these abstract “creatures” sit on a set of plinths positioned in a way that echoes the zig-zag construction of Cochrane’s sculpture. The relationship between this particular pairing is just one of many examples that produce both contrasts and similarities, not just between organic and geometric forms but also between smooth and rough textures, small and large scales, matte and reflective surfaces, bold and subdued colours.
One of the appeals of viewing abstract works is that the eyes are always trying to make sense of things that are often nonsensical and what seems familiar at first suddenly becomes unrecognisable. This is a strength of Ian Williams’s paintings, in particular Fool’s Gold (2019), which depicts a still life arrangement of general household items, however; each painted object lacks enough detail to withhold its proper identity from the viewer. A layer of confusion is added by Williams’s photorealistic application of oil paint, making the desire to discern each mysterious shape more intense. Gera Woltjer’s installation piece, Pool Sketch #1-4 (2018) has a similar effect. The familiar pattern of a swimming pool lane is extracted from its original context, replicated in different materials (fibreglass screen) and then placed on the gallery wall, falling down to curve onto the floor; the linear pattern is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, challenging the way we see shape, line, and colour in the everyday.
Lastly, Chris Hopewell’s paintings must garner a mention. Although the painting’s explosive aesthetic is impactful, recalling a modernist style of abstract expressionism, it’s Hopewell’s use of resin that makes them significant. The resin, a wet-look gelatinous substance, spills over the canvas. Glossy, black and reflective, the viewer sees their own distorted reflection and becomes the abstracted.
This review deems Abstracted intriguing, playful and well worth a visit. The exhibition runs until August 3rd.
Words by Claudia Minutillo
 “Abstracted,” ArtsHub Australia, accessed July 5, 2019, https://visual.artshub.com.au/whats-on/perth/exhibitions-visual/abstracted-240822