Here art grows on trees*

Walking into this pavilion felt like entering into a sunny beach house. With half of its ceilings removed, when I looked up and saw the blue sky it was as if standing outside when in fact surrounded by interior walls I knew I was inside of a structure. It felt like a hybrid space providing the impression of occupying both the inside and outside at the same time. Artist Simryn Gill is representing Australia for the 55th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia, her site-specific installation brings awareness to the transient nature of being and existence. Her work reflects her peripatetic life, through images and objects they present observations and meditations she derived from her journeys. Personally, I also liked the idea of exposing the exhibition to natural elements without the full ceiling protection of works from sun, rain or wind.  Inevitably, the works are to gradually transform and integrate with nature.

Here art grows on trees, Gill's installation comprises of Eyes of Storms, 2012, 2013, 7 ilfachrome prints from a series of 23, Half Moon Shine, 2003 is made of mild steel with a 158 centimeter diameter, Naught, 2010- consists of objects in shape of zeros found on walks and Let Go, Let's Go, 2013 is a collage of ink on 12 paper and wood panels that are 120 x 280 centimeters and with text extracted from 144 books.

Simryn Gill
Let Go, Lets Go, 2013 (detail)
collage and ink on 12 paper and wood panels,
each 120 x 280cm, 144 books
Photo by Jenni Carter
For this post, I will not talk about everything but give a concise description and explanation to a few pieces.  As I briefly mentioned about how this installation is done with the intention of it slowly transforming with nature as the building is partially open on the top to take in the natural elements of weather, the architectural standing of the Australian Pavilion is also implicating a change and rebuilding.  The Australian Council is preparing for a new building structure of which will take place in a few months after this exhibition.  Along with this change its appearance of a modular beach house will be dismantled and discarded for a new pavilion.  In some ways, even the pavilion itself is a space and structure in transitory state and would not stand permanently.  Playing off of the ephemeral aspect of being and existence, repetition comes along as a way of ensuring its continuation.  

Simryn Gill
Let Go, Lets Go, 2013 (detail)
collage and ink on 12 paper and wood panels,
each 120 x 280cm, 144 books
Photo by Jenni Carter
From a distance, Let Go, Let's Go looks as if swarming bees hovering in migration.  Then on closer look, the bodies of the "insects" are actually printed text and words from torn-out pages of books.  While the lines and marks Gill made across each piece of text seem arbitrary, like someone casually sketches over an extraneous word or noting a change in the text, but these little markings gave movements and life to the piece.  Even on a closer look these still look a little like insects moving across a plane rather than just printed text on a wall in stasis.  Here it also seems to confront the reality of how printed text and books are slowly giving way in the ever rapidly growing digital age.  As faster and more portable ways of carrying and reading text is made possible with use of laptops and tablets, we see a decrease in demand and value for printed books.  While our present economic environment requires speed and proficiency to propel the cycle of production and consumption, therefore less attention is paid to the details of things.  To read a whole book from beginning to end is time-consuming yet does not seem to materialize significant profitable means instantly.  Gill urges us to be aware of this change in our society and to re-examine the values of our culture and society.  
Simryn Gill
Half Moon Shine, 2013
mild steel,
diameter 158cm
Photo by Jenni Carter
Simryn Gill
Half Moon Shine and Eyes and Storms exhibition view
Photo by Jenni Carter
Proceeding onward, Half Moon Shine is a heavy steel piece that shifts the "lightness" experienced from Let Go, Let's Go to something sturdy and weighty.  It looks as if something from an old ship or some abandoned industrial parts. Its rust discolors and roughens the surface due to rain water that it collected from the day before when it rained.  Half Moon Shine is almost ceremonial, for its presents is like a wishing well or a memorial for something that is lost forever to the passing of time.  The sacredness and reverence comes from its physical weight on the ground and the impossibility of it being able to be moved by a single individual and its circular shape like a metaphor for a life lived in full-circle. While Half Moon Shine is faced up to the open ceiling and thus to the sky, it opens itself up to the offerings of nature and slowly collects it inside of her body.  As the result, the inside surface changes color and texture meanwhile the whole sculpture stands generously to receive nature and whatever shall happen along the passage of time.  


Simryn Gill
Naught, 2010 – (detail)
Objects in the shape of zeros found on walks,
methods of display and dimensions variable
Photo by Jenni Carter
 
Simryn Gill
Naught, 2010 – (detail)
Objects in the shape of zeros found on walks,
methods of display and dimensions variable
Photo by Jenni Carter

Just before exiting the pavilion, Naught is an installation of found objects in shape of zeros that are hung up and bundled up as if necklaces or rings of keys on a wall painted entirely black.  The arrangement looks as if a constellation in the sky that each star tells a different story of its origin and history.  Seemingly mundane objects of no particular value, in this collection and arrangement they become objects of art.  Their value changes from being objects tossed away and forgotten to something precious and meaningful.  Found from walks in her home in Malaysia, Gill brings personal history and narrative into this work.  It also confirms the transient notion of value in material objects of our consumer-based society.  All of these objects have once belonged to something useful or was a part of something once treasured.  Yet as with the passage of time, detached from original use and their origins of birth these displaced objects seem lost and their value become nebulous.  All together, the circles and zeros form a colorful palette capturing our visual curiosity.  The circular shapes also seems to signify a non-linear world-view of everything starts and finishes at the same point.  In other words, drawing a full circle completes its existence and returns itself back to its origin.  Metaphorically, like this entire exhibition that is half exposed to natural elements of mild or harsh weather, in the end, it will become a part of nature and thus have traveled a full circle.  

*Australian Pavilion
55th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia
1 June - 24 November 2013
Curator: Catherine de Zegher
Commissioner: Simon Mordant AM

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