Artereal Gallery is excited to present Destructive Plasticity, a solo exhibition of striking new works by internationally renowned artist Jess MacNeil.
Featuring a selection of works spanning video, photography, drawing and painting, the exhibition highlights the breadth and talent that characterises MacNeil’s practice.
To view & purchase artworks scroll to the end of this exhibition page or visit the gallery before the 2nd of July 2022.
An innate sense of self intertwined with land – of bearing scars, of tear, of mend, blend and renewal, of both the landscape and the artist, plays out in Jess MacNeil’s unearthing of ways the Australian bush colonises the psyche.
After years overseas, Jess MacNeil returned in 2019 to the shock of New South Wales burning. Fires rampant, daytime darkness, homes and forests razed, animal carnage, livelihoods and lives lost. The artist arrived at the now burnt-out site where decades earlier as a child aged six she had moved with her parents, amidst a searing drought, to a bush block in the Bega Valley where they were looking to build their mud brick home and their future.
Her early childhood experiences of the coexistence of trauma and loss with joy and growth, of the precarious balance between the vigour of the life-force within the threat of mortality are at the core of the artist’s adult art making that is distinguished by concepts of visibility and invisibility, presence and absence, memory and disorientation.
Jess MacNeil’s latest work engages with her re-immersion in her formative Bega Valley South Coast landscape and a process of regenesis and renewal of the landscape parallel to her own.
Her chosen exhibition title, ‘Destructive plasticity’ alludes to the power to form new identity through trauma, the idea of sculpting new forms through annihilation of some other and the impetus to inhabit gaps. For the artist, and within these works, it manifests in both style and essence as a continuous state of becoming…
My studio visits with the artist to view works in progress prompted our wide-ranging exchange across philosophies of biophilia and man’s innate connection with the natural world; the tantalising idea of the ‘eyes of the skin’ – of inherent bodily sensitivity to space and sense of place. Of shooting with your eyes shut and the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, mixing gold dust into ceramic repairs to acknowledge the scars, rendering them newly beautiful, but mindful of the ever-present ‘hidden past’. As in the continuing trauma of indigenous dispossession that permeates Country and culture and the Australian psyche, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. Acknowledgement of the subtle significance of shadows and absence, the feather soft layering that place leaves within us – and we on place…
Such sentiments and ideas are intrinsic to the focal work of the exhibition, a major new video, Regenesis, responding to and recording the devastation and regeneration in the Tantawangelo State Forest.
The one continuous stream of drone-shot footage has been looped around, sometimes folded back on itself, with the artist deliberately datamoshing; pushing the corruption of image by not only exploiting glitches that can occur during faulty playback but setting them up to trip on purpose for a both destructive and constructive intrusion onto the footage, triggering alteration to colours with purples and pinks where there were greens and juddering the composition integrity as the data struggles to re-find and restore itself. The sounds of the recovering forest, the audio of leaf and twig crackle, breeze and bird song, are similarly distorted to echo the image of what happens on screen. Such image and audio interventions in the creation of her near-painterly video mirrors the stuttering stop-start inherent in the process of recovery within bush, body and mind from trauma. A companion work, the elongated strip form digital print Unforgetting: Yuin Land – Myrtle Mountain is developed from a collage of still images from drone footage.
A trio of paintings Tantawangalo Now, Then, Soon, Again: Then, Tantawangalo Now, Then, Soon, Again: Now and Tantawangalo Now, Then, Soon, Again: Again in watercolour and metallic paints poignantly combined with charcoal gathered by the artist in Yuin land from the burned and devastated site mine and draw on both memory and drawings sketched on location as well as drone video footage from the site. Their gestural mark-making style of disconnect, of gaps, of surface build-up and surface erasure draws on the ways of destructive plasticity and its continuous state of becoming and unbecoming…
Additional major paintings from this body of work will form a solo focus on Jess MacNeil at Sydney Contemporary at Carriageworks 8-11 September 2022. CreateNSW funding enabled the production of the Regenesis video and the award of a Copyright Agency Cultural Fund residency at the Myer House in association with the Bega Valley Regional Gallery during August 2022 will allow her to revisit and further explore the South Coast sites of still-mourned personal and national trauma.
Jess MacNeil works between painting, installation, video and film. Her practice explores human relationships with the world around us, reflecting shifting perceptions of this environment and our passage through it.
MacNeil has exhibited widely internationally and within Australia. Previous exhibitions include the ’18th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations’ (2012); ‘Primavera’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney; ‘New’ at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne; and ‘Experimenta: Speak to Me’ as part of the 5th International Biennial of Media Art. Her work has also been presented at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Singapore. MacNeil was recently awarded the 2022 Tom Bass Prize for Figurative Sculpture.
View all works from Jess MacNeil’s current series below.
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