IN-Grained: works in wood (exposed and disguised) 2003–2012
Posted: 20 Jan 2013
My father was a classical pianist. He believed that no matter how brilliant a soloist might be, the real power resided with the orchestra. Recently I had cause to reflect on this belief as I gathered together works for an exhibition. Place, architecture, architectonic narratives and the love of the skeletal, timber frame for the domestic house are considerations that have for some time coalesced to form an ongoing seam within my visual art practice. In late 1999 a cluster of skeletal, house-like, works made in wood began to wriggle into life in my studio.
Initially I allowed the timber surfaces to remain exposed. Over time this approach expanded to include disguised surfaces where the wood was covered in white canvas or paint. The whiteness linking to the modernist domestic architecture of Paul Rudolph’s Florida houses, Rudolph Schindler’s experimental house for two couples, Eileen Gray’s remarkable E1027 and others.
Invited to stage a survey exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery in Hobart, I began to explore new ways of presenting the wooden works. I was searching for a manner of presentation that would emphasise the architectural qualities of the works while also searching for a more theatrical and constructed solution, liberated from the dimensions of the gallery interior. I wanted a new world temporarily sited within the gallery.
There are many fine architects in Hobart but I had recently been introduced to Peta Heffernan and instinct drove me to approach her with an audacious proposition. The proposition was that she curate the exhibition, design the exhibition space and then collaborate with me on a major piece for the exhibition. The objective of the collaboration would be to emphasise the meeting of minds of artist and architect and the act of collaboration. Despite the magnitude of the task, which needed to begin immediately, Peta accepted.
A survey exhibition inevitably begins from a point where the works exist and therefore the unique perspective of the curator is important. Peta selected a cluster of ten works she felt quite clearly linked to architectonic narratives and domestic built form and together we played with a spatial dialogue about private and public space in which to site the pieces. A plan emerged to show individual works at the entry and in a corridor of rooms emphasising interiority in contrast to opened spaces in which works would share the gallery landscape in a suburban-style paradigm we know well. In essence, Peta created a secretive journey of revelation through a series of changing spaces and atmospheres.
The completion of the design opened up a new and unexpected opportunity. Works could be reimagined in response to their placement within the built form of the exhibition or in shared locations. Some works remained the same and others changed. For instance, Elysium, with its surface pierced by thousands of holes, became a lit work rather than an unlit work, active rather than passive.
Together we collaborated on a work titled Groundcover — a large sculptural wall-based work composed of 64 modules. This work has the potential to be arranged in a multiplicity of ways responding to a grid. Architects at Liminal Spaces, Peta Heffernan’s architectural practice, experimented with the possibilities, using a scale model. They photographed a range of outcomes and from these possibilities a selection was made for the layout of the modules that became the proxy or symbol for landscape. Elements of a simplified floor plan for a domestic dwelling designed by Peta’s father, Tasmanian architect Ray Heffernan, were overwritten across the somewhat reluctant and crumpled landscape. The work references modernist architecture, American artist Sol Lewitt and seriality.
After twelve months of planning and preparation, as the exhibition came together in the gallery, lighting played a powerful role in establishing mood. Visitors were welcomed by the work Carpet, which was positioned to dominate the entry, flowing boldly across the landscape (floor) and three metres up the wall.
The collaboration caused me to reflect once more on my father’s comments about creative power beyond the individual. The collaboration with Peta proved to be a powerful, harmonious, instructive and successful experience, taking the exhibition to a place beyond my imaginings.
As a community we understand that history, society and culture affect the human condition but so too does the built form we inhabit. Domestic built form exerts a profound effect on our psyche and the natural landscape that is forfeited to create ever more dreams. For IN-Grained, the works were brought together in a series of spaces inviting contemplation and reverie about seminal human issues.
As Peta wrote in her catalogue essay, “Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa says that architecture is a direct expression of existence, of human presence in the world. In other words, the built environment reflects the values of the society that exists at that point in time … By observing the layers of time we can see how these values through the ages have shifted.”
IN-Grained: works in wood (exposed and disguised) 2003–2012 was exhibited at Carnegie Gallery, Hobart.
Images from top:
Peta Heffernan and Greer Honeywill, Groundcover, 2012, mixed media, 240 x 240 x 20cm. Photograph Justin Bernhaut.
Greer Honeywell, Carpet, 2005–2012, various timbers, craft wood, glue, 6cm x 150cm x 11m. Photograph Justin Bernhaut.
Greer Honeywill, Anthology of Sadness, 2003–2012, Huon pine, American Cherry Wood, ceramic plates, cotton/polyester shirts, metal hooks, light, variable dimensions. Photograph Justin Bernhaut.
Greer Honeywill, Elysium, 2007–2012, marine ply, mild steel, paint, light, 140 x 150 x 56cm. Photograph Justin Bernhaut.
Greer Honeywill, To look at the moon, 2009, wood, paint, found object, metal fittings, 106 x 31 x 220cm. Photograph Justin Bernhaut.
IN-Grained: works in wood (exposed and disguised) 2003–2012, installation photograph.