Beatrix Brenneman | April 11, 2022
A fold is a shape for secrets. A note passed silently under the table. Together, folds become hypnotic, the note once read, bedsheets once slept in, chocolate once eaten, memories once dreamed, where does it all go?
It goes into The Fold; the yielding form that catalyses conversation between nine artists’ work on display this week at the George Paton Gallery in Union House. Up the stairs on level two, I tip-toe past the fervent arguments over Dungeons & Dragons and slither into the gallery space. The exhibition covers a lot of ground, so I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of every work on display (in the hopes that you’ll go see it for yourself).
A prelude to The Fold curated by Lilly Skipper is Christina Darras’s exhibition titled A Geography of Moments. Silver chocolate wrappers spill out at me from the tunneling gallery entrance like space junk. Stuck to the walls, spraying up onto the ceiling, over the wooden floor, yearning to float around the corner and permeate deeper. The urge to labour over the scraps of little delicious moments is surely something we all share. Don’t you also sometimes scrape and scrape at the Easter egg foil with a fingernail, ironing out every crease until it becomes a perfectly flattened rectangle? And doesn’t it just beg, in all its glitteriness, to be saved–collaged and sandwiched between notebook pages? Darras’ silver chocolate foil expands on our sentimental desire to make trophies out of memories, out of chocolate whenever you feel like it, to save them from forgotten obscurity, crumpled into the recycling bin and instead keep them close and remembered.
Following the foil around the corner, I enter The Fold. The cabinet spaces behind the gallery walls are opened up to reveal a pseudo-walk-in wardrobe installation by Lily Baxter. Dreamy translucent knitting draped over yellow canvas, cascading down the shelves. Beside it, nestled in another pigeon-hole sits a painted abstract pink shadow, clothes drying on a clotheshorse. Around these spotlighted works floats an array of miscellaneous objects: a jagged cardboard structure, a ceramic blob, squares of pink floral jacquard fabric cut and nailed back together, concrete, and necklaces writhing on white plaster and strung across a small white picture frame.
In the adjacent cabinet, Baxter’s motifs of shadows, fabric, and knitting reemerge on a larger scale, clipped to clothes hangers. Knitting in progress, the ball of yarn seemingly left behind to trail along the floor; the pink shadowy painted shape again, but here cut out from the jaquard fabric; and rectangular jagged fabric offcuts pasted onto board, the fold hardened. Baxter, like Darras, employs the shape of the fold as a container for memories. Self-referential soft textures become active emblems for domestic moments like squinting in the sun, hanging out laundry, and then doing it all again next week.
On the floor, Lilly Skipper’s printed photograph of a red electric scooter draped in soft transparent plastic is pinned to the floor. The paper curls, reaching up away from the floor, resisting the imposition of the crumbling brick paperweights at the top and bottom edges. A testament to the fold is the unrestrainable natural shape. Turning around to face the centre of the gallery space, I’m met with Lauren Johnston’s installation. Cascades of translucent white paper pour out onto the floor from a central point in the ceiling. In the round, slivers of photos are interspersed between the folds, a medium that positions Johnston’s installation in direct conversation with Lilly Skipper’s scooter photograph. Where Skipper’s interpretation of the fold is desperately resisting the bricks like a little a dying breath, Johnston’s waterfall dilates the potential of the folded form into a fully-fledged vessel for memories unencumbered to proliferate.
Moving deeper into the gallery, Ellie Murtagh’s projected video installation made in collaboration with David Barnes digitises human movements into figureless forms. A constellation of dots converges into a stick figure motioning in black space. The form grows, becomes three-dimensional, one becomes two, then three, then a kaleidoscope of hypnotic, shifting shapes. Falling asleep the night after seeing Murtagh’s work, I’d swear I’m seeing these shapes behind my eyes, pressing my hands against my eyes to block the sliver of light between the curtains. In disembodied shadows, tissue paper, digital gestures, and trailing yarn in-progress, the fold is both a sentimental action, capturing secrets, and an explosion into the future. Collecting memories of the past and promising, knowing that the future will, at some point, blur and morph to join the collected past.
The convergence of past and future within the shape of the fold is also felt in Madeleine Sloane’s painting; the last stop in my anticlockwise walk around the exhibition. Time, size and shape collapse in on themselves and become malleable through Sloane’s manipulation of crumpling bedsheets. Travelling through the repeated iterations of the same two pillows shrinking up into the corners, inverting, becoming larger and smaller all at once is like falling into the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, or waking up from a nap thinking you slept through to the next day only to check your phone and realise it’s seven in the evening. The shape of the fold is again the geometric time machine or time capsule: an empty vessel for squishing up secrets, memories, visions, dreams, and hallucinations.
Oh, and of course, there’s more. Liana Prosia’s bubbly, puffy checkerboard spirals in primary coloured pencils and Textas, silver stickers and wire mesh as a frame for keeping the secrets these shapes hold safe behind bars. Shelley Spangler’s red twisting, tangling, looping knots that unravel and curl inwards and outwards around blank space, inverting the expected relations between frame and framed. And Eliza Cullen’s installation, a computer mouse tracing accidentally, no wait—humorously, across ballerina’s dancing on CCTV video: a meta, modern Degas? Macabre yet heartening prose scrolls beneath the unknowing dancers:
Let us all rot in our stupid importance heal while you are here feel the softness and beauty in it all the irony the most grand comic joke drift eternally disappear into the divine order laugh at how silly it is all becoming
So, someday this week, while you’re walking slowly through the honey that is this last week before Easter break, I recommend seeing The Fold curated by Lilly Skipper, and Christina Darras’ A Geography of Moments while you’re at it.
Both The Fold and A Geography of Moments are currently showing at the George Paton Gallery, located on the second level of Union House, concluding on 14 April. Entry to both exhibitions are free.