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above: Gosia Wlodarczak ON THE SKY AND WATER, FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014), a seven-day drawing performance and installation on the Art Gallery of New South Wales window, DRAWING OUT, the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial, Sydney, Australia. Pigment pen on glass, overall dimensions: 310 x 1050 cm

ON THE SKY AND WATER, FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014) performance drawing was commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia to be shown at DRAWING OUT, the Dobel Australian Drawing Biennial exhibition 21 November 2014 - 26 January 2015.

DRAWING OUT, the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial, Sydney, Australia, 2014

by Ayar Frantz

ON THE SKY AND WATER, FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014), is an expansive and perfused work of art: over ten metres in length, the dimensions of the drawing are unequivocally epic in scope and size. Defiant of classic enclosure and inanimate form, the work conducts an optic shimmer of contraction and expansion upon the eye of the viewer. During installation, Wlodarczak drafted nine towering panels of liminal gallery space with an intricate web of rectilinear lines, diffused markings and ubiquitous corporate logos. Both delicate and fortified, the form of the drawing contrasted with a succession of severe aluminium frames that partitioned the window surface upon which it was executed. Besides the sole variation of the panel on the far left (an emergency exit to the roof of the gallery), the resulting modularity of the piece is rigid and symmetrically exacting in its division of the translucent surface. Stressed by this mechanistic and hyper-functional design feature is the dissent and tactility of Wlodarczak’s mark-making. Once complete and viewed at length, ON THE SKY AND WATER (2014), fades both in and out of sight like the inhalation and exhalation of breath on a cold window pane.

Drawn in situ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, ON THE SKY AND WATER (2014), is both performative and conceptual. Ephemeral and, dare I say, dematerialised, it is a distillation of the structural and environmental forces that were encountered by the artist. Time, site-specificity, and the assorted variables that converged upon Wlodarczak as she drew (for instance: interruptions, conversations, fatigue and humour) were syphoned from her abstract ‘space-time’ into the linear trace and soft materiality of her white Posca marker. Interpreting such a process-based work as an aesthetic art object is not without its risk of criticism, however credence was lent to this means of communion during installation. For instance, a number of bemusing and formalistic junctures were reached and documented as it matured in size and density, most notably the variations that natural and artificial light lent to the colour and shadows of the work. Additionally, frost is a well-worn motif bearing strong picturesque connotations. In lieu of this decidedly anachronistic association, a contemporary reading of frost under the influence of Gosia’s work might instead note it as the elemental ossification of exhalation and perspiration. It is the visual evidence of affective contact.

Wlodarczak’s reinstatement of affect into conceptual practice is among the most profound achievements of FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014). It was here that the historic implications of the work truly gripped this writer: where, in the temporary absence of well-worn demarcations, system and affect collided within a work-specific contact zone. During the seven-day installation, the idealised vista of Woolloomooloo was floored by the sober aesthetic diplomacy of the artist and the democratic systematisation of her practice. Gosia did not pause to reflect upon what was seen during the act of drawing. Form, line and shape were committed to the translucent glass pane as they appeared to her eye: the artist encircled avian excrement as readily as she transposed the features of people who approached her throughout her time in the gallery. The performance proposed empirical evidence of being by way of an affective pre-cognitive exercise in drawing. Wlodarczak’s drawn line was the record of a life-force at the centre of encounters that are abstract and intangible or, conversely so, logical and rule-based.

Thrown into relief by FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014) are the myriad of ways in which the legacies of conceptual art are interpreted. Recently, historian Eve Meltzer identified conceptualism as an art of the antihumanist turn of the sixties: a structuralist disavowal of belief in a subject that was “not only in command of themselves and a consciousness fully transparent to itself, but also the historical process.”[1] According to Meltzer, structuralism imbued the dissenting work of the mid-twentieth century. Amidst this environment of nihilistic (de)appraisal, artists harboured a keen awareness of systems and structures, and a fixed affair with the so-called belatedness of subjectivity. Their works determined that the human subject was the effect of preexisting systems, and that these systems were within the scope of visual practice. Of particular note in Meltzer’s writing was her discovery of marginalised affects residing in the peripheries of conceptual art. Albeit in a unique guise, affect is illuminated in the contemporary work of Wlodarczak. Contrary to the above discourses that conceive of affect as somehow prior to or beyond subjectivity, ON THE SKY AND WATER, FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014), proposes their intimacy to one another.

[1] Meltzer, 2012

January 2014

Ayar Frantz is a recent undergraduate of art history at the University of Sydney. In November 2014, he assisted Gosia in the installation of the discussed work On the sky and water, frost drawing for the AGNSW.

Images courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and the text above.

Click on the image above to open more night views ON THE SKY AND WATER, FROST DRAWING FOR THE AGNSW (2014)