Gail Hastings has a solution for creating work that might return to her studio (rather than to a museum or private collection).
Gail Hastings Exhibition: To Do (2014)
Gail Hastings’ major new work Exhibition: To Do is anchored around a large square plywood structure that sits on the earth’s axis – the walls respectively facing north, south, east and west.
The visitor is invited to enter the structure, also entitled Exhibition: To Do, via an opening in its eastern wall. This has the effect of placing the viewer at the centre of Hastings’ universe. The surrounding construction is an assemblage of partitions of varying height, which expand incrementally and symmetrically on the pre-existing dimensions of the plywood (18 millimetres thick).
In this way, Hastings uses prevailing systems to guide her in the creation of a new body of work. This brings to mind the paintings of Frank Stella made in the late 1950s, when the artist used the arbitrary measure of the width of his paintbrush to guide the compositions of his paintings. In the case of both artists, the reciprocal demands of human and material are manifest.
Only once standing inside the work, Exhibition: To Do, can the visitor view three works on paper created specifically to sit inside the structure. Hastings’ two-dimensional works appear to act as blueprints or drafts for the sculptural components of the artist’s practice, both in the sense of their execution but also their subject matter.
Delicately rendered in watercolour with ruled pencil lines emerging from the edges of the translucent wash, these pieces depict the To Do list in question. One such reminder, the instruction: ‘Build racks in which to store the art after the exhibition’, speaks volumes about the established systems of the art world, and the particular approach artists must take when they create work which sits outside the conventionally commercial.
Hastings’ solution to creating work that she accepts might return to her studio (rather than to a museum or the home of a collector) at the conclusion of the exhibition is to create a major sculptural installation which can contain her other smaller works like a storage device. In this sense, it is not only existing physical systems that guide Hastings’ practice, but social systems too.
As well as the architectural-sculptural piece that dominates the space and the works contained within it, Exhibition: To Do includes a series of watercolour works displayed on the gallery walls. These were created for another of the artist’s major recent undertakings, an artist’s e-book entitled Missing. This ‘Encyclopaedia of taking care in art’ describes the compositional properties of the page as individual characters playing a part in a narrative. These works are framed thoughtfully by the artist in shallow plywood which renders them harmonious with the central shelf structure, and allows them to be viewed as a series without protruding interruptions.
Exhibition: To Do is grounded in an awareness of space. As is the case with Hastings’ ongoing practice, the potential of space is investigated, its inflexibilities utilised and embraced, and the artist’s and viewer’s interaction with the work is made paramount. It is a show which, while rooted in existing patterns and geometries, maintains a sense of humanity and emotion within each ruled, sawed, sanded and watercoloured line.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Exhibition: To Do
by Gail Hastings
The Commercial Gallery, Redfern
11 April - 3 May