Essay for "Beach Box Blue" at Blindside

Through installation-based practices I explore the extension of painting in space. Fabricated materials such as nylon wire and synthetic wool are arranged and suspended in space and are used to mimic formal qualities present in flat abstract painting. With colour, line and angle I investigate optical illusion, in particular perception of motion and spatial ambiguity. This work is directly influenced by the abstract painting of Bridget Riley and reliefs by Jesus Raphael Soto.

An object suspended in the foreground when painted the same colour as the background surface can create the illusion of spatial distortion. The illusion is created due to the lack of contrast between the background and foreground. The tonal qualities are so similar that the edge—where we recognise where one form finishes and another begins—appears to merge with the background and this creates confusion of the actual distances between the material and the surface. This perceptual experience is one element which I hope to intrigue the observant spectator.

In addition, by painting suspended objects I hope to further extend the idea of painting in real space.

An illusion of movement is created through the use of contrasting colour and repetition of line and angle. As the viewer moves through the space these lines and angles appear to shift, creating a sense of movement. Bridget Riley commented that “ cannot have movement without the opposite—static. There is no change without a constant” (eds. Kudielka 1999, p. 123). In an attempt to activate this proposition within my own work I have utilised a tunnel-like structure. This device ensures that the viewer must pass through and into the work if they wish to see and experience it in its entirety. It is this movement which creates the perceptual experience for the viewer (illusion of motion of the installation).

My investigation into optical illusion has resulted in creating experiential installations where the viewer must pass through the space to perceive the optical effects. The presence of the viewer in the space has led me to question the relationship between the figure (the viewer) and the abstract installation.

The work itself is influenced by my personal experience of travelling through the landscape. In particular, travelling by train or car through country New South Wales where large-scale clearing of land has resulted in a barren landscape littered by dead trees, still standing but grey in colour. Seen from a moving vehicle, the dead trees create an illusion of criss-crossing verticals. The memory of this sensation has become very influential in my works.

Using exaggerated elements such as vibrant colour and repetition of line I hope to present a heightened experience of what one might encounter whilst travelling through the landscape. By translating this into a gallery installation I hope to activate the act of looking and sensory perception.

Amanda Airs