Black Box, (curated by PJ Hickman and Suzie Idiens) with Craig Easton and Peter Adsett, Five Walls Projects Melbourne, 26 April - 14 May 2016

installation views


Black Boxes, 2016

Acrylic and polyurethane on canvas, 122 x 122 cm
Collection of the artist

catalogue essay

In choosing cardboard as a common starting point these four abstract artists each celebrate their material as affordable, everyday, yet infinitely flexible. Prosaic, [concrete?] cardboard calls up a kind of old school modernism yet it has been, and remains, a favoured prototyping material for architects and designers. Of course prototypes have real world outcomes; think the cardboard cathedral in Christchurch. And then there’s the title of this exhibition, Black Box. Somewhere there’s an allusion surely to Malevich’s Black Square and recognizing it for its role as a kind of multi-dimensional container. But whether it’s a lineage of minimalism or the ordered trajectories and disorderly disasters of the black box flight recorder, what you pull out of its dark recesses is up to you the viewer. Maybe, in the end, abstraction is just like cardboard. It’s all a matter of how you fold it.

Artist talk...

The simple premise of the exhibition was to use cardboard as a common starting point. Cardboard is a material that is affordable, readily available, and infinitely flexible. 

Cardboard seems to be everywhere (particularly corrugated cardboard boxes).  

Black Box, the title of the exhibition, partly alludes to the boxes and Malevich’s Black Square as some kind of multi-dimensional container.  

Indeed the use of cardboard has an interesting lineage as a medium in art,

For example, think of Picasso’s early Cubist constructions, through Dada (Kurt Schwitters), various Minimalist and Arte Povera artists, Robert Rauschenberg’s constructions, and many others.

Even today, with slick polished digital presentation all the go, cardboard remains a material for some architects and designers to use as a way to work through prototypes, which sometimes have real world outcomes.

Cardboard boxes come in all shapes and sizes.  Yet for transport and storage they all need to be stacked on a standard size pallet.  So many boxes have a diagram on the box to indicate the most efficient way to stack them on a pallet.  

Like the architect of designer’s prototypes, the diagram on a box can also have a real world outcome, namely the stacking arrangement of cardboard boxes on a pallet. 

I’ve titled the painting Pallet (please excuse the pun!)

It is based on one of these diagrams with the dimensions of the painted diagram the same as a standard pallet.

I’ve collected these little diagrams for years.  Little ready-made Minimalist paintings, think Sol Lewitt.

What appeals to my Conceptual Minimalist practice is that they are square, my favoured format.

They also appeal because they provide a ready-made composition, one that is generated by serial repetition of the same shape. 

I also appreciate their clarity and rigorous economy of form and restricted monochromatic palette.

The intention is to deliberately limit my subjective aesthetic decision-making (even including the painting’s title).  However, despite all the references to cardboard boxes and pallets, the painting is essentially reduced to surface, materials and composition, a non-objective painting rather than alluding to anything else.