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In Profile


 Da Contents H2

September 16 2015
In Profile: Zoe Scoglio, artist
Urszula Dawkins

RT PROFILER 11, 22 JULY 2015
July 22 2015
In Profile: Jason James, artist
Andrew Harper

In Profile: Nick Power, b*boy, choreographer

November 12 2014
In Profile: André Lawrence, emerging curator
Chris Reid

In Profile: Angus Cerini, writer, performer, director
John Bailey

In Profile: Julian Day, composer
Matthew Lorenzon

September 17 2014
In Profile: David Rosetzky, Gaps
Urszula Dawkins

In Profile: Matt Warren, mumble(speak), III - real and imagined scenarios Gail Priest
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RT PROFILER 5, 30 JULY, 2014
July 30 2014
In Profile: Lawrence English, Wilderness of Mirrors
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RT PROFILER 5, 30 JULY, 2014
July 30 2014
In profile: Natalie Abbott, Maximum
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July 2 2014
In Profile: Lily Hibberd, Twin Cinema: Four Devils and a Woman in Red
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In Profile: Prying Eye, White Porcelain Doll
Kathryn Kelly

RT PROFILER 3, 21 MAY 2014
May 21 2014
In profile: AñA Wojak, 3 Decades
Jeanti St Clair

In Profile: Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology
Virginia Rigney

In Profile: Paper Cut Contemporary Performance Collective
Gail Priest

In Profile: Wyatt Moss-Wellington, Sanitary Apocalypse
Oliver Downes

March 26 2014
In Profile: Alison Bennett, Shifting Skin
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March 26 2014
In Profile: Chris Howlett, ARGARMENIA
Christy Dena

November 20 2013
In Profile: Rachael Dease
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In Profile: Sarah-Mace Dennis
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September 25 2013
In Profile: Keg de Souza
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In Profile: Miranda Wheen
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September 18 2013
In Profile: Michaela Davies
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In Profile: Pia van Gelder
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In Profile: Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology

Virginia Rigney

Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology
courtesy the artist
Artist Statement

In December 2013 I spent three weeks at the Bundanon Trust Artist Residency on the former estate of the artist Arthur Boyd, 40 minutes west of Nowra, NSW. While I was there I spent a lot of the time with my head down. I was working through some personal issues that were troubling me, but what really caught my eye was the residue of previous residents. Bundanon can accommodate artists of all disciplines—dancers, musicians, writers—but Fern Studio was clearly used by painters.

It's not uncommon for art studios to be covered in paint, but what makes Fern Studio interesting is its history. Each swatch of colour, drip and splatter represents the work of an artist who has participated in the residency prior to my arrival—each of us, I presume, motivated by Boyd's legacy and the prospect of creating something meaningful.

Armed with a camera and a wide stance I commenced documenting the floor, searching for dramatic compositions. It seemed that everywhere I looked there was a new constellation of colour and form.

Like all my work, in which overlooked things are transformed and allegorised, Fern Studio's floor is rendered fantastical through its treatment as an animation of slow moving photographs. This process has been informed by the potential for each image to appear not only as a paint-covered floor, but something else. Exhibited at The Walls, Fern Studio Floor is projected upwards, onto a floating screen hanging from the ceiling. Visitors are encouraged to lie down and be seduced by this well trodden floor and its transformation into art.
Chris Bennie

Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology
courtesy the artist
Mediating legacies

Over 30 years ago, in my first years at university in Canberra, we were taken on a day trip excursion to the Arthur Boyd property at Bundanon on the Shoalhaven. The artist had recently returned to Europe but had left his newly completed, timber-lined studio electric with his recent presence. As a student of art history whose experience of painting was largely confined to the finished product on the walls of a gallery or reproduced in large tomes and labored over in libraries, to see such a working studio was a revelation. This was the kind of place from which Boyd’s almost terrifying canvas depicting the painter gripped with doubt and false greed had come (Paintings in the studio: Figure supporting back legs; interior with black rabbit, 1973-74). We had all just seen this work hanging, as I recall, in the cavernous downstairs spaces of the newly opened National Gallery of Australia, one of the few Australian paintings to make it into that hallowed territory where its near neighbours were de Kooning and Pollock.

Ten years on from that work and in the shadow of the escarpment on his bend in the river, Boyd was now producing more meditative images, but it wasn’t so much the paintings on the easel that I remember from that visit, but most indelibly the latest and smartest Bang and Olufsen CD sound system mounted on the wall, its pristine lines abruptly and irreverently disrupted by a brilliant multi-coloured finger mark of paint on the play button.

Fast-forward to the hot early summer of late 2013 and Chris Bennie is artist-in-residence at the Fern Studio, one of a number of artist studios now provided for and managed by the Bundanon Trust. After a busy and successful year of art prizes, grants, exhibiting and lecturing, Queensland based New Zealand born, Bennie was looking forward to a fresh break and the rare opportunity that such a residency offers to be absorbed and focused on a new environment.

Encountering the studio, Bennie reflected on the many artists who had been there before him, all generating new ideas and producing work under the legacy of the Boyds and their regard for the importance of making culture. In an artist talk at the Walls Contemporary Art Space Bennie said that, like Boyd, he reflected on the nature of a studio as a private space of chance, ambition, doubt and mistake, as well as a place from which considered and successful creative output emerges.

Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology
courtesy the artist
He found the past presence of all these artists most manifest in the colourful residue of paint: dripped, spilled, dropped and splattered over the timber floor, reading it like a layered contemporary archeology of place. However, unlike the sensation of a patina which fuses the past life of the object into a single texture on the surface, Bennie has read these layers as a three dimensional view and, through hundreds of photographs documenting the minutiae of this floor, has literally inverted and elevated it to become a new and unlikely cosmology.

The formal language of video practice is in relative infancy and often constrained by technological limitations, but Bennie has been consistently interested in physically framing the way that the viewer encounters his work using projection within and onto banal or overlooked architectural spaces. These have included most recently a repurposed caravan retrieved from the devastating floods in Bundaberg. The installation for this work, on a screen suspended from the ceiling, invited the viewers to lie down on their backs on a large raised platform covered in soft carpet and to look upward as a slowly moving constellation of vivid colours passed above. The images of the Fern Studio floor were set within a second frame of a darker blurred image and this highlighted their potency.

The shared experience of lying quietly side-by-side on the platform encouraged strangers to be briefly united by Bennie’s seemingly physically replication for us of his own feeling of absorption, of being in that studio for three weeks. Looking up and allowing ourselves to relax and be taken into this work was a rare and satisfying experience and, of course, if we doubt the importance of artworks that consider the intimacy of our relationships with the built environment, there is the sweet irony that the work depicts a floor on the ceiling in a gallery called The Walls.

Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology, 2014, The Walls Contemporary Art Space; 15 March-5 April, 2014;

Virginia Rigney is Senior Curator at Gold Coast City Gallery.

RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 pg. web

© Virginia Rigney; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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