Have you ever wondered what exists in those tiniest of fragments of space and time that exist in between oscillations and waves and binary steps? What is the information in between the dots and dashes of a morse code transmission; what is in between the 1s and 0s in strings of binary code; what value sits in the transitional space between a peak and a trough in a wavelength? It’s these pauses and voids between distinct states, between unique spaces, between extreme positions, that forever fascinate. And it is within these zones of liminal reality that art seems to find a vast store of its energy and materials.
Jason Waterhouse operates within this zone, locating the phantasmagorical intra-states of a sort of magical realism of hard materialism. His latest work tides is perhaps his most accomplished expression of his dreamlike exploration of the agency of things. Set over two spaces the exhibition consists of three major parts but is more of a moving network of relations than a hard and fast suite of entities. And where I ponder the meaning of empty spaces between states of reality, I find Waterhouse’s work to be the missing reality that exists in those spaces. An unseen universe of object capability that he captures, locks into place and holds still long enough for us to see that things are living outside of us and we are the ones living in the inside gaps of the on/off oscillations of light, space and time.
In the first, smaller space, Waterhouse has hung about two-dozen sheet of paper, all with a single painted pink cloud. It is an exercise in capturing the most ephemeral of forms, of suspending moments, elucidating the artistic urge to monumentalise the moment. Carefully strung from nylon thread and lit in such a way as to create the effect of rain running upwards to the ceiling, it’s a charming and lighthearted work that reflects on the compulsive drive to capture and share, to repeat a task in search of an answer that most probably will never come, but will always be there for the chasing. It is the constantly evolving complexity of the most simple things that make the chase the very reason itself.
In the larger space is a work that reads both as two parts and as a singular installation. It’s a mix of technological manipulations, celebrations and fears. A barrel of a shotgun sits perpendicular from the wall, firing an eye-dazzling pink neon plume of smoke. The colour and form echoing the hand-painted cloud blobs in the first space. On the floor, are a series of electrical power tools with their cords trailing behind them as if caught in a moment of panic and collective escape towards the door. They are all Ozito power tools, as if all belonging to the same tribe or family. Protruding from underneath each one is a glossy pink blob, that reappearing pink cloud form. But rendered here in shiny, soft-pink it reads like skin. Like an inflated cheek, a scrotum or a belly, the hardness of the power tool softened by the apparent delicacy of a biological appendage.
Waterhouse has rendered the whole scene with such clarity, and considered material acuity, that the vision itself is utterly compelling. Again, lighting is brought into play in an intelligent and considered partnering to the artworks, revealing a tactical awareness of a complete experience for his audience. Low lights cast shadows from the power tools onto the gallery walls, reinforcing the theatrical drama of anthropomorphic technology coming to life in a moment of panic. Beyond these visual impacts, once taken in and almost literally bathed in a pinkish hue that fills the space, the mind starts appending meaning to object, interpretation to scene and the rooms fill with questions, concerns and hopes.
Is the gun a starter’s pistol and the power tools are on a fun race to a rewarding victory? The power tools, while all apparently of the same order – sanders – are of varying size, appearing like mothers, fathers and children. Is it a village fete, a revelry of celebration? Or is the gun a threatening weapon of destruction and the power tools are scrambling for their lives, dragging their soft underbellies across the concrete floor in panicked escape from impending doom, their cords trailing behind and the parents desperately rallying their children toward safety? The very willingness of the mind to entertain such fantastical musings is testament to the construction of the forms and the installation of their positioning in architectural space by the artist.
Snapping yourself back out of the apparent non-sensical consideration of frightened power tools, and shrugging off the all too humanising angst that comes with even a moment’s musing on the plight of humans found in such positions, the echoing pink and cloud-like blobs resonating throughout all component parts comes back to the fore. Clouds, dreams, recognising patterns in shapes – it’s both a highly potent visual icon and a subtle underlying motif that pulls it all together. A surface and a scaffold.
Waterhouse has produced a wonderful show here, rich with a craftman’s skill of material accomplishment and theoreticians extrapolation of ideas. Captivating and clever stuff.
Stockroom Gallery, Kyneton
12 Nov – 4 December, 2016
Image Credit: Pia Johnson