Stephen Mc Laughlan Gallery, Melbourne 1996


Felicity Spear Fold
(Oil on linen)

These paintings revisit aspects of Dutch visual culture in the 17 C. Through the intermediary of the lens this period has been described as an age of observation, in which the science of optics and the behaviour of light (often using the pin-hole camera or camera obscura as a model), define the eye as a mechanical maker of pictures and the central means of visual experience. The artists’ eye began to operate both like a telescope and a microscope. These paintings, like rows of photographs arranged in grids, (reminiscent not only of the modernist grid but also of the tessellated floors of so many Dutch interiors at the time), represent abstract close-up fragments of Dutch paintings, zoomed in to the maximum.

It is said that photography had its beginnings in the ideas of experiential science and technology. Later, photography provided the means to re-inscribe things over time, de-stabilizing the uniqueness of the original. Hence the fold alludes to the doubling of anything upon itself, continuous variation, seriality, unfolding, infinite possibilities. The references in these works come from fragments of Vermeer’s paintings, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1662-63), The Glass of Wine (1658-61), Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (1654-55), and Baugin (1612-1663) and his painting Wine Glass and Wafer Biscuits. They are reduced to smooth and ambiguous surfaces, abstracted areas of veiled shadow and glimmers of light in the form of grids and series. In these works painting mimics photography like a mechanically reproduced still, but it remains painting. From the austerity of the shadows the artist silently observes the subject caught in a space mapped by light.