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Ten Days on the Island

March 23 - April 1 2007

 Da Contents H2


an other place - alex pentek: paper magic

bec tudor

Bec Tudor is a writer and researcher based in Hobart. Her interests include fine art, philosophy, environmental thought, education and community.

Alex Pentek, Otherness Alex Pentek, Otherness
photo Craig Opie
Alex Pentek’s Otherness is a monumental metre-wide Mobius strip constructed from a single length of cartridge paper approximately four metres long. The paper sheet is brought into relief through a meticulous process of scoring and folding. Beginning as a repetition of diamond shapes the folded texture morphs into rounded scales before gradually returning to the original pattern. The loop and twist of the overall structure is simple and graceful.

Amidst the already eclectic range of work in the exhibition An Other Place, Otherness it is an odd entity to encounter. It is big, white and its place within the exhibition concept is at first obtuse. Initially, I complacently assume I understand its investigation: something along the lines of a formalist pursuit of perfection. And I am only vaguely interested.

The sculpture is accessible from all angles and as I wander around its girth peering over its lip into its folds, I begin to realise I’ve been too hasty in judging it. Suspended on wires, it all but fills the volume of space between gallery ceiling and floor. In a dialogue of bodies I warm to this “white elephant” and begin to notice its surprising subtlety.

Natural light passes through the semi-opaque paper, bouncing off and between its surfaces. The interior has the luminescence of a seashell from some angles and elsewhere the gallery’s lighting throws facets of the paper into contrasting yellow and shadow-blue. Disturbances in the air trigger a gentle bounce across the paper structure, a reminder of the material weightlessness of Otherness.
Alex Pentek, Otherness (detail) Alex Pentek, Otherness (detail)
photo Craig Opie
Crinkles, dents, small tears and holes made accidentally in folding mark the entire surface. No effort has been made to disguise the join in the paper strip, nor the reinforced attachment points of the hanging mechanism. Perhaps the artist was pursuing consistency and perfection, but this work is very much handmade and it bears testament to the fact that the artist is human not machine. The humility of the work renders the concentration, accuracy, care and persistence involved in the Pentek’s labour all the more potent.

An Other Place brings together three Irish and three Australian contemporary artists to explore the notion of ‘other in place’ (felt especially in island places) and curator Sean Kelly in his catalogue essay writes of the slippage between familiarity and confusion associated with this precarious state of being. This concept made tangible in the shifting pattern of Pentek’s work and the eternal loop of the Mobius strip is a powerful metaphor for transition occurring between assimilation and difference within one continuous entity. The play between inside/outside and the twisting that turns both sides of the paper outwards speaks of inversion and extroversion.

Pentek’s sculpture is a floating island: physically self-contained and visually at odds with other works in the show. Its scale makes Otherness impossible to overlook, yet its presence is paradoxically unassuming. What at first appeared a cold rather conceptual and self-referential work turned out, through interaction, to be sensual and receptive.

Alex Pentek, Otherness, An Other Place, curated by Séan Kelly; Long Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, Ten Days on the Island, March 22-April 29

Bec Tudor is a writer and researcher based in Hobart. Her interests include fine art, philosophy, environmental thought, education and community.

© Bec Tudor; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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