Glasshouse Port Macquarie, 31 January to 10 March 2014

Peter Jackson’s second movie relating the story of Tolkien’s The Hobbit sees the main protagonist Bilbo Baggins using his “ring of invisibility” with increasing confidence. While he disappears when the magical ring slips over his finger, other characters may recognize his presence, as a shadow-dweller whose reality may be sensed even as it is unseen. While Tolkien’s inspiration for his story included fables and fairy tales, science also shows that there is much in our lives that is present yet not visible. This is the territory occupied by “Shadowline”. 


The work of four artists – Nicole Chaffey, Anne Judell, Jennifer Keeler-Milne and Franc Hancock – offers a vista into an archaeology of ideas and experiences that may occupy unseen territory in our lives. Light has been a driver in the creation of art since the Renaissance when it was used to evoke nature and elevate the spirit. Its ability to create emotion and atmosphere has been integral to visual expression in the centuries since. In her selection of work for “Shadowline”, curator Niomi Sands focused on artists who capture the essence of place using light and shadow. Colour is muted, with artists working in black and white, pastel and ink. In these works a relationship to a local or imagined landscape, internal or external, is experienced variously at the micro or macro level. 


For Nicole Chaffey, an interest in re-defining her Aboriginality has seen her bring together personally dreamed landscapes in process-driven drawings. These are symbolic – three trees representing the three generations of women who went before her - and an imagined landscape dominated by the sky (and not the land), noting the dispossession of her heritage and country and creating new connections to a missing history. 


Anne Judell and Jennifer Keeler-Milne explore nature on a micro level with dramatically different results. Judell’s observations of the natural world expose the fragility of the natural cycles. Her Filament series evokes stillness through detailed layering of marks that shimmer and vibrate around a rectangular form. She suggested, “I am always drawn to the minutiae”. Keeler-Milne’s charcoal drawings of sea sponges capture the amorphous nature of these sea creatures and their ephemeral presence, yet offer a system of taxonomy to define and celebrate the fluidity that is their physical form. They float across the darkness of the picture plane like ghostly clouds. 


Franc Hancock is inspired on the macro scale, using photographs of the earth captured by satellite. Created on large (2000 mm x 1500 mm) wet pieces of paper, utilising wind and rain as part of the process, his abstracted images could be parts of the body (Leuce III) or a changing landscape (Sorrow). They use textures and pattern to document time, place and space. Hancock’s practice is to work in Sumi ink. In their physicality these works resemble cellular snapshots: he suggested, “In my mind the works are an invitation to Rorschach escapism”.


This exhibition is an intimate viewing experience to echo the spirit of the works – their glimpse into another world a reminder of the possibilities that dwell at the perimeter of our vision. 


8 January 2014

Louise Martin-Chew