Joyce Campbell & Michael Harrison
01 Aug — 31 Aug 1997
Unexpected intimacy can make us feel uncomfortable and we look for any signs of inhabitance as we enter spaces. The most fundamental rationalisation of this awareness of personal territory is 'safety'. We protect our 'personal space' through elaborate displays of ritualistic avoidance. We experience personal dislike as physical repulsion and gradualy grow to indicate trust through physical intimacy - "share germs" with those we love. A fear of "infection" at once dignifies our territorial instincts, and has provided a seamless rationalisation for the least egalitarian of tribalistsic and nationalistic atrocities.
While working in different formats, the work of both artists is characterisied by an attention to the interelatedness of the social and biological determinants of human interaction - with place, and with each other. Hosting is the first public manifestation of these mutual interests.
More fundamentally, the works are linked by a presumed relationship between artist and viewer - one of personal investment. These are confessional works, an admission of "dirtyness", psychological, physical. In compromising the artist's privacy the viewer is invited to pay the work the kind of intimate attention appropriate to the private sphere, the uncalled for disclosure: I thought something dirty, I had something dirty on me.
Hosting is an attempt to provide art viewers with a heightened awareness of their territorial relationships with the environments that they inhabit. In entering a space marked by another, the visitor is presented with his or her own territorial responses, this momentary self-conciousness creating an opening for shift; a site for potential reassessment of notions of identity, fixity, exclusion and belonging.
"mov(e) foward .....to a disturbing proximity that renders visable the disgusting substance of enjoyment, the crawling and glistening of indestructable life."
Swabs taken from the body, cultured, subcultured, isolated. This project involves cultivation of the miriad of fungi and bacteria symbiotically associated with zones of the human body, the artist's body - the host. Agar plates, inoculated with isolates and then incubated, develop into "transparences". These are photographically exposed as ciba-chrome colour contact prints, the sanitised "aura" of the body's most dangerous isolates. Their rich colour and subtley aformal structures lend them to a reading of benign formal abstraction- stained glass.
This work evidences the invisable traces human occupation. While we might strive for the sanitary, it is forever evading us with apparently entropic resistance. We will pollute the objects which we use and the spaces that we occupy. Through the tracings of vapours and fluids on surfaces our bodies reveal their presence. In their substance they embody both threat and a stunning fecundity. Hosting is an amplification of that exchange which accompanies the moment of touch. The lip touches the glass, the swab touches the agar, the culture plate contacts the paper. Made manifest through this process is that element of the body which extends beyond the bounds of the skin and yet continues to exert an influence on the world - a living aura.
As the sanitised becomes sullied the customary sanctity of gallery space is similarly compromised. By indicating physical residues within an art work the invitation is for the viewer to engage with gallery space as they might the space of another individual, demystifying their relationship to work and reminding them that that relationship is physical and psychical as much as it is intellectual.
Michael Harrison often paints pictures in order to experience sexually, and to make sense of sexual experience. He usually paints women, his images sourced from material freely available to the everyday voyeur, for example Farmers catalogues, Cleo magazines, neo-classical statuary. Michael's work is extremely controlled. He processes imagery over many years, with images reappearing repeatedly over long periods of time. These are treated simply, but form complex, oblique narratives, virtual sexual encounters of fantastic purity, symmetry and style. These disconcerting intimate admissions into the life of the artist form, en masse, a diary.
Much of what Michael paints he has never exhibited, prefering to store works he regards as potentialy problematic to the viewer. In Hosting Michael reveals many of these paintings for the first time, showing what has over the last decade formed a substantial personal collection. The audience is presented with a single wall of images, standard A3 and A4 format acrylic studies on paper, and in no chronological or thematic order. This exhibition is an opportunity to present Michael's work within the context of it's entirety, as a diary, a fragmented narrative that illuminates that process whereby the individual over time constructs a detailed internal sexual self. The self in these works doesn't age, but rather loops back, re-visits favourite haunts, the lovers remaining eternally young and idealised, considered as an expression of the tyranny of sexual instinct.
Reviews, Essays & Articles
Break in transmission?
The Press, 1997 Aug. 13, p. 14
Hosting, Michael Harrison and Joyce Campbell paintings and photographs.