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Inside the sense-surround jigsaw

Diana Klaosen, L’Ambiente


Skinner, Perkins, Warren and Sauvage, L’Ambiente Skinner, Perkins, Warren and Sauvage, L’Ambiente
courtesy the artists
Disparate elements come together to great effect in L’Ambiente, a multimedia installation show held in February at Hobart’s CAST gallery. L’Ambiente is a collaborative work exploring the emotional potential of light, sound and materials and their interaction, re-woven into a new design and, consequently, a new context. The 4-person installation creates a tangible ambience, enveloping and redefining space-within-space and, inevitably, influencing and involving the gallery-goer’s response to the work (I hesitate to use the word “viewer” here, as experiencing L’Ambiente is all encompassing.)

This manipulation and exploration of spaces can be seen in a series of large-scale screen-like woven structures, in the intervals between various objects that make up the installation, the structural spaces inherent in the materials used and the way the sound element fills and is maximised by the spatial arrangements. The neologism ‘sense-surround’ springs to mind as the most economical way to describe the physicality.

As for the participating artists, their arts practices are eclectic and varied. Richard Skinner is a furniture and lighting designer; in collaboration with artists in other media his aim is to contribute a new perspective on contemporary living space. Matt Perkins is an electronic media artist recently returned from living in Japan; his current work explores perception and consciousness. He found the project a liberating process as he was set goals not related to his usual concerns, allowing him to focus on the “poetry of vision” and how things occur in time and space. Matt Warren’s practice encompasses a prodigious range of time-based media. For 5 years he has been working through the concepts of absence and loss, producing numerous works linked within ‘the on-going absence project.’ He finds collaborative ventures significant in initiating new directions and ideas. Vicki Sauvage has a background in textile art and has been exploring weaving and woven structures in a 3-dimensional way. She has a particular interest in the interplay between form and structure and the language used to describe the interconnectedness of disparate elements.

The most obvious elements of the installation are the large, curved screens created by Skinner and Sauvage, made from materials new and discarded—polyethylene foam, aluminium welding wire, acrylic rods and halogen lights. The seductive snow-white polyethylene foam—recycled packaging material—of which the screens are woven has an eerie beauty when put to this unlikely use. Shown the prototypes of these structures, Perkins produced a complementary video responding to the notions of light and space, with the added element of pixellated images. His videos, projected onto screens, combine visuals taken from his Japanese sojourn with more abstract investigations of colour and pattern. At this point, Warren added his sound component, a unique reverberation, not quite music/unstructured noise, the final piece in the installation jigsaw, filling the gallery space, linking the physical works by its all-pervasive presence.

The gallery visitor enters L’Ambiente to be greeted, or enveloped, by a powerful and compelling ambience; as the door swings closed, one is left in semi-darkness. Beacons of light pulsate here and there—from within the enormous glowing screens, from the flickering video projections and the floor-based “lamp voices”, small, humming lighting fixtures largely made from ordinary drinking straws and evoking the retro fascination of items such as the lava lamp.

As one negotiates the objects and spaces, the environment is ever-changing; the video projections bombard the senses with different images, the insistent yet strangely soothing soundwork is infinitely varied and intangible, the shadows change, the visitor discovers that taking different paths between the physical installation elements leads to unexpected views and impressions, even visual illusions.

The whole is an immensely satisfying and engrossing experience, unique but owing something, perhaps, to the haunting experience of visiting a darkened temple or cathedral, crossed with the novelty of finding one’s way through a maze. The visual elements are strong and the soundwork complements them well. The artists explain, “We feel that it is important to see this installation as having the potential to evolve and incorporate new elements such as new video material from Japan, new sound elements and new screens. It is not just fixed in time when it is presented in a gallery space, but can continue to develop and evolve.”


L’Ambiente, a collaborative installation, Richard Skinner, Vicki Sauvage, Matt Perkins & Matt Warren, Contemporary Art Services Tasmania (CAST) Gallery, North Hobart, February 3 - 25.

RealTime issue #42 April-May 2001 pg. 35

© Di Klaosen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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