viaje al infinito sueño solitario

Speech Patterning

Robert Cook

Speech Patterns is a cross-generational conversation between the practices of Nadia Hernández and Jon Campbell. Comprising material selected from across their careers, it is also a belated West Coast introduction to two of Australia’s most vital artists. The spirit of the exhibition and book respects the differences between their practices while basing their meeting on affinities such as the ways they employ the aural, physical and material aspects of language. Neither formalist nor (explicitly)conceptual, their grounded outlooks pull words and commonly-used phrases from the people and art forms around them to float, protest and cope with personal and political concerns. They do so in dynamic relation to the ever-changing realm of pop and art cultures, while remaining deliberately in synch with the values of their social and family backgrounds.

 Without getting too reductive, their methods of making and thinking might fit a label like ‘poetic pragmatism’. By ‘poetic’, I mean that neither artist offers long-form, narrative-based or definitive summaries of experiences; they deal in fragments and evocation. By ‘pragmatic’,I am referring to philosopher and educator John Dewey’s take on art, aesthetics and experience[1]. Holding no truck with ‘museum art’, Dewey considered art most favourably when it dealt with the grain of daily life. He understood ‘aesthetics’ as a mode of charged bracketing that amplifies our awareness of the sensations or structures of experience such that we might in fact identify them as distinctively meaningful experiences. An aesthetic experience, therefore, is a precise temporal articulation of an aspect of the world that distinguishes it from the regular stream of being/consciousness[2]. It doesn’t have to be a peak experience; it can be quite ordinary[3].  

While Dewey’s framing might not completely hold, it is pragmatically useful here because it helps us experience the manifold ways that Nadia and Jon’s works catch, hold and reshape all manner of things (feelings, thoughts, ideologies, motifs, songs, poems) that might otherwise pass them (and us) by; and, in the process, distil their meanings in a fundamentally relational form. It makes lovely sense that Nadia refers to some of her works as ‘field recordings’ if we understand that recording is an active process that changes and reforms what has been collected and brings it into dialogue. In the work of Nadia and Jon we might consider the form of the recording to be a modernism they have co-opted as a medium or device to carry, embellish and heighten the intensity of their found materials. Though that’s perhaps too strong an object–subject division. It may be better to say that they operate from within streams of consciousness shaped by layers of culture and experience, from which they creatively seize this element over that, translating them as they go and wrestling with their effects and affects. This all sounds rather too abstract – a matter that will be rectified, I hope, by listening-in to the signifying waves of several specific artworks.    


Since the beginning of her career, Nadia has arranged and recomposed voices of family and friends as away of making room for the presences of those she is close to but far away from. Her works are gatherings in which singular authorship is not deconstructed but recalibrated from within a swirling collective that honours a multiplicity which is real and felt. Commentators of Nadia’s work have typically (and correctly) noted that this quality is a response to her position as a queer Latinx woman residing in Australia. Yet it is not simply the result of her displacement from Venezuela, but a generative methodological platform that guides her work’s unfolding within the complex pathways of dis- and inter-connection. In this regard, to consider Nadia’s work is to be already inside it, to realise that one is somehow pitched within a tangle of people and places, hopes and sadness, alliances and losses. The work’s difficult clarity comes from her ability to hold contradiction as she gathers the rush and pulse of the world in its bounds[4].

In the trio of 2018 hanging textile works Cae El Telón De La Noche, Un Ejército De Luces Entretejen La Ciudad (The Curtain Of The Night Falls, An Army Of LightsInterlace The City), Arco Iris De Colores Alegran La Lejandad (Rainbow of Colours Brighten The Distance) and Bólidos Zizagueantes Atrapan La Soledad (Zigzagging Race Cars Trap Loneliness) the bold shapes, bright colours and zesty phrasing stitch together a speech pattern based on one of her grandfather’s poems. As an assemblage they evoke a sense of optimism and apprehension: Rainbow of Colours Brighten The Distance registers hope while The Curtain Of The Night Falls, An Army of LightsInterlace the City warns against the danger of illumination. Possibility and constriction address each phrase without cancelling themselves out. There is an opening and a folding-over that mirrors Nadia’s relation to a political situation she emerges from yet is outside of. As she says:

These were the first works where I was looking at family connections while I wasn’t physically present with them. We have lost so much from the regime. It has stripped from us so much of our relationships with each other. Culture and art gets lost, museums were being closed down and looted. In this context the poem is a tool, a non-violent weapon.[5]    

The combination of words Nadia uses to describe the work – poem/tool, non-violent/weapon– reveal the spirit of a cultural revolutionary for whom creation must continue in order for her to critique, to disarm, to empower, and to think beyond the present antagonistic situation. She stages this mode of pressing against limits by stitching her grandfather’s words into the semi-abstract hangings; words are blocked off against intrusion and their geometric form sharpens their declarative yet ambivalent communicative force. They proclaim, they hang, they evoke, they wait.  

They also highlight a state of vulnerability. The three works can be seen as a hopeful yet mournful hymn about the ways visual art and poetry inhabit public and private space.Often brief, elliptical and ephemeral, poetry cannot be burned down; it can continue to exist in the writer’s and reader’s minds as they move through the world.[6] From this perspective, by transferring the poem into a three-dimensional realm, Nadia acts out its energetic freedom while making us aware that its new physical and artistic form is prey to potential destruction and ruin: textile poems can be torn down, stolen, burned.

The works stage both possibilities; the poem might still drift away from the work, become atmospherically poetic and fragmentarily non-linear, such that it continues its liberating and memorial function. This dynamic is the tacit background theatre of the work, its mode of gathering signifying momentum. Indeed, it’s a dynamic that guides several of Nadia’s works as her installations – staged as events more than exhibitions – are so clearly expectant spaces full of tragic buoyancy and optimistic despair about the past, the present and the coming thing. The focus on experiential encounter through material strategies of representation brings the body of the viewer fully into play, of course. As we walk around the works, understanding their physical presence, direct simplicity and evasive shades, we are aware that they do not merely signify their messages but perform them.

In Como el sol y toda su energía (Like the sun and all its energy), 2020, Nadia uses this method in tribute to her grandmother. The title phrase is an anecdote from one ofNadia’s cousins who described their grandmother ‘in the most beautiful and simple of ways: your grandmother was like the sun and all its energy’. The work rains sunshine in words and in the shapes that frame them. And its arrangement of positive and negative space animates everything around it, creating a larger emotional weather pattern. Within its low and high pressure systems, language is sliced into the world as a bridge to becoming. Nadia links natural and generational orders, comingling their energies and capacities to enhance life.    

Como el sol y toda su energía was made just before the COVID-19pandemic and, unsurprisingly, the works completed in its wake employed growth motifs to keep this vital spirit in play. Por la vida: El Sol, como crece su amor, 2020 is a good example. In English, the title reads For life:the sun, how much its love grows. Nadia says she made the work:

when everything was shutting off and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I fully freaked out, locked my studio and headed to Brisbane. I had a big impulse to sun symbolism; I wanted to flood the studio and myself with an extreme sense of positivity because I felt super helpless. The sun is important because it makes things grow; our planet turns around it. It is the optimism of being held in the patterns of growth, the cycles that we have known, that generate growth.  

These works aim to create the means to remain part of the rhythmic pattern of life, a process that takes one forward within fields of relation. We see this too in Una flor con amor, Diaphorina Citri, con trinos de libertad (A flower with love, Diaphorina Citri, with trills of freedom), 2019. The painting shows the interdependence between the state of Nadia’s houseplants and her own emotional situation. Made during a breakup, this work features dispirited foliage with strange fruit that droop in solidarity with her spirit and from a period of relative neglect. The point here is that no event is isolated: everything ripples outwards, everything is a kind of companioning.

These ideas are forcefully present in the paper-cut works that were initially made to raise awareness about political issues in Venezuela. Bringing forth the legacy of the political poster, their high-contrast intensity depicts the agitated and enervated bustle of a people speaking back to the regime. La Fuerza Es La Unión / Strength Comes From Union, for instance, was created in 2015 after Nadia had just come back from a visit to her home town. Arguing against the government’s efforts to polarise the population in order to weaken its ability to form a strong oppositional force, the work expresses her fundamental solidarity with her family and the people who remained.

The punchy focus of this (and other early works) are complemented by recent paper-cuts that are rather more tumultuous, such as De pan duro, de oro puro / Of stale bread, of pure gold, 2021. The text here is based on a tongue-twister Nadia learned as a child. Its densely layered spray of words and letters visually matches the sensation of trying to keep up with a complicated rhyme that is seemingly forever escaping us. Importantly, this failure is creative: the impending breakdown of meaning in the tongue-twister form offers a space for anew story to be composed. The original verse simply conveys the wonders of pure gold, but her tweaked version holds the aspirational trope in ethical check against the context of people living in an oil-rich country who can’t afford stale bread. The hectic feel of the work alludes to a possible failure to process, or keep up with, this fact. The ‘X’ in the piece, for Nadia, represents a file or an image which can’t be loaded on a computer – processing power has failed; there is too much complexity to allow the item to reveal itself.Accordingly, the words are massively animated yet caught in the equally immense static of expectation. The work as a whole jitters in sympathy, attempting to hold the shaken fullness of the matter.  

This is not a tangential or incidental occurrence in Nadia’s practice. On the contrary, active holding patterns are a major part of her productive management of ambivalence and ambiguity. This approach is present in the overloaded precision of her maximalist paper-cuts, but is most clearly articulated in the paintings in which a sketchy flurry typically troubles the surface while also acting as a unifying force for component motifs. Within the bounds of these paintings symbols cohere then decay as the eye darts around the canvas, never quite finding a place to rest.In this manner, Nadia fashions places to attend to the rhythms and tumult of life, and its modes of temporality. There is the time of remembering, the time of forgetting, of noticing, of moving on, of return – all of which are subtly different experiences, none of which are fixed in place or privileged over another.

At times, Nadia refers to the segmentations that animate several of these paintings as vignettes.  This is particularly the case in Consejos, cosas que son difícilesde robar, y ‘Chinita’ (Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquirá) / (Advice, things that are difficult to steal and ‘Chinita’ (Our Lady of Chiquinquirá)), 2019. The painting came into being when she was doing online research about a disease affecting citrus plants inVenezuela: ‘I had a huge array of open tabs and I was overwhelmed about how to process the information’.This matched how she felt about addressing all the other issues facing people ‘back home’: ‘I found it impossible to find one word or sentence to simplify things; the only way I could process it all was in a series of vignettes’. This led her to create cartoon-like sections portraying a loose story about a bug and the virgin of Chiquinquirá reaching her hand into a bag of citrus fruit. The story symbolises the binding of contemporary issues and traditional cultural forms. The vignette structure does not offer stability (or reduction) of meaning but makes us aware of the ongoing flow of the intermingling itself. It speaks as much about imaginary future relations as it does about what is actually presented within the frames.    

The point is that her canvases are porous fields of encounter, and increasingly so. The large paintings from 2022, Entre otras cosas ..., Pinta flores, pinta aguacates …, andPinta ... cacao, chocolate …[7], are each composed from motifs, symbols and characters from popular culture and everyday life that were suggested by people close to Nadia, including her mother, grandmother, girlfriend and best friend. Some items were chosen because they were subjects Nadia is known to enjoy, while some were random ideas about other things they really wanted her to paint. In each instance, Nadia rendered these sketchy, open motifs into new dialogues with each other. In this zone, there isa quality of imaginary translation in play, as if she is imbuing the ideas with the traits of their passage from person to person to person. In this way they are brought to life in an amorphous state that is close and distant at the same time, and, again, in a state of continual creation and recreation. This is dramatised by the familiar strangeness of popular culture characters in particular, like Snoopy and Tweety. Such North American fictional figures were part of her childhood – friends in a way. They express familiarity, and therefore family. These works honour the significance of these ‘actors 'in our minds as well as how, in their new guises, they become chimeric energies that bind us in shared recollection and in the gum of change. The past is present but never as it was. The world is mutable, fundamentally in flux.    

It's worth pausing here to consider the presence of the grand, looping, highly poetic titles that pulse ahead of and around Nadia’s works. Often these are handwritten on the works themselves in such a way that they render her words as pictorial, rhythmic threads in the world that she is holding space for. This is reminiscent of Louis Marin’s evocative description of a sequence of 11 poems handwritten by Picasso about the weather. He suggests they open up:

a present-time I call intensive; it is the time of poetic creation, or, to put it more precisely, that of the pregnancy of the visual in the textual, the eruption of the gaze in the reading of letters, the germination of a cosmic, solar eye in the gray and white flux, the snow of signs[8].  

This is all so pertinent – the snow of signs, the time of poetic creation, the visual in the textual; the systems of meaning becoming matter that scatters through us, communicating physically. Nadia’s work Mantequilla a temperatura ambiente / Of butter at room temperature, 2021 uses this approach quite specifically. It was initially inspired by one of her mother’s recipes that she ‘found too much poetry in’. She intended to use a line from the recipe in the form of a banner in order to release that format from its solely protest-oriented role, while still keeping the collective in play. Nadia considers the work to be about ‘a state of union, in the way butter melts and fuses with the other ingredients to shift and change things’. Its titular phrase states what it represents and expressively signals it. But new meaning springs from the coming together of the elements – a newly flavoured whole emerges that is about what it is to feel hope, physically and emotionally; what it is to yearn for transition.

   Again, this is underwritten by an attempt to process, and to hold, the difficulty of living while the processing occurs. In a certain manner Nadia’s work here enacts the extreme difficulty of the ‘relational position’ articulated by Édouard Glissant, who argued that the mode:

is linked not to a creation of the world but to the conscious and contradictory experience of contacts among cultures; is produced in the chaotic network of Relation and not in the hidden violence of filiation; does not think of a land as a territory from which to project toward other territories but as a place where one gives-on-and-with rather than grasps. [9]

He proposes a way of thinking beyond ownership and the essentialism of place – but surely this enterprise is incredibly hard to achieve in real life? It exists as an ideal, but when one has no place, no ground, it might at times (or continually for some) be just too much to bear. Even so, this is in part what many of Nadia’s works deal with: the effort to give-on-and-with, to not grasp, and yet to still hold on to things … because if one doesn’t, what is left? If there is no future unity, even as an idea, might one just drift away?   


With the potency of that question in mind, I turn to Jon’s practice and begin with a painting that sums up one of his key aesthetic attributes. His work, like Nadia’s, uses expressive letters that riff off the visual in the textual and that situate themselves as performances of meaning.They are also often celebratory, which is rare in contemporary art – though Jon’s works are never as straightforwardly ‘up’ as they might appear. We can see this use of lettering in FuckYeah (Matisse), 2015. Incorporating the phrase ‘fuck yeah’ and visual references to HenriMatisse’s cut-outs, Jon’s painting is a peppy homage which distils theFrench modernist’s late style and congratulates him for it at the same time. At this level it is simple enough, and has a terrifically open-hearted charm. Yet part of this charm comes from the force with which the work breaks a social convention. It is not the swearing that’s so powerful, it’s that it is a full-voiced personal address. There is body and an implied loudness in play that feels transgressive in an art world context; the work speaks against expectations that art appreciation should be physically detached and silent. Jon pitches the idea that genuine, impulsive liking could be a unifying force between artist and audience. The jolt of this might make us wonder how Henri would react; would he become puffed up and proud, or bashfully demure? Jon would probably be excited to see this response, but he also makes it okay for his own reaction to stand alone – it’s cool to be excited, buzzed by an encounter with an artwork or an artist. And as he gives no reasons for Matisse’s greatness, he creates a space where we can just spontaneously dig stuff. By apparently disregarding the restrictions that might dampen our responses, Jon also flattens the hierarchies that keep high art separate from real life. In this way, the work is also a meditation on rules of behaviour that equally frames the flipside: if art can be everything, and is everywhere, must we always be silently engaged, critically alert, careful of treading on, or bumping into it? This question posits an oddly panoptical reading of art as a system of emotional and physical regulation and governance.[10]

This can be seen in relief in Yeah / Mr. Football, 2009. The banner depicts ‘Mr. Football’ (Ted Whitten) leaping up to take a mark for his team, Footscray. Jon made the work to honour a local hero, in a working class area that has had few. Its celebratory tone feels natural because boisterous fandom is expected in sport, and is sanctioned for emotional release. Whitten’s mastery is more easily taken as a given than the prowess of the modernist work itself which might be described as ‘something my child could have done’. That noted, the reverse idea is in play too: football is constantly critiqued by professional and amateur commentators across all platforms. Could an artist cope with the pressure of a talk-back-radio sledging session of a hundred callers? It is clear that Jon is honouring the confidence to leap, to take a risk, to do your own thing in spite of who the crowd is barracking for. By extension, he is also fashioning his own extended sense of excellence in popular culture which entails works we can take into ourselves without fear of being wrong about them; works that we can drop our guards around because we feel them and encounter them as equals. And we can get beyond ourselves in the process. Even if we don’t share the same love of Matisse or Whitten we can liberate ourselves from a contained passion by going hard at what we enjoy.      

What are you fuckin lookin at, 2014, however, probably makes us put our guards right back up again. Typically, these words are spat out by someone looking for a fight (which is why there is no question mark in the work). It is impossible to reply to them. If you respond with ‘Oh nothing’, the rejoinder would be ‘You saying I’m nothin are ya?’. If you say ‘sorry’, they could reply ‘so you were looking?’If you remain silent, it’d be ‘I asked, what are you FUCKIN LOOKIN AT!’We can see this work as the airing of ambient hostility, a ferocity that lies beneath the surface or around the next corner. Yet it also has an art meaning:it might open up wounds from our lack of trust in our ability to have a correct, satisfying, ameliorating response in the face of an artwork. Jon says the piece is also about making us question what we are in fact looking at in the off-kilter state generated by the work – can we look harder? see a bit deeper?could we have missed the point? The work slaps us, and in a way that is not entirely at odds with the works addressed above: if artists and footballers have to put themselves on the line, audiences might also be expected to do so.    

Still, it’s destabilising, and the fact that there’s a few ways to understand it, adds to its punch – there’s no right or wrong, just baiting and wrong-footing. Realising this should make us cautious about Jon’s broader interest in truth and lying, as is indicated by the work It's a world full of lying bastards,2017/2020. He has used this phrase in various works, and in this painting it reads more or less like a basic statement of fact. Its abstracted form (with each letter on it’s own individual canvas) and indirect address makes it less harsh thanWhat are you fuckin lookin at. We can let this work’s sentiment hang in the air. Depending on our mood, we can take it personally, even as a warning. Or we could enter into a tedious philosophical debate about whether a person who says they are lying is telling the truth. As with much of Jon’s work we can take it all ways at the same time.  

The same unsettlingly ambiguous quality is present in otherwise direct works like Fuck Knuckle, 2019. Our responses to the questions inherent in the work frame us: Whois? Why are they? Am I? Are you? Am not! You are!!! This dialogue comes from the distinct idiom of ‘Australian egalitarianism’, a culture based on expectations of transparency, of fairness, of not putting yourself above others, of joining in, of being a team player. In Jon’s work this not-quite-past idiom waves the liberating and antagonistic elements of its value system in front of us. We feel located by sentiments that are sometimes happily down-to-earth and open-hearted and sometimes cajoling, viscous and belligerent. Often both at the same time. Even if we know where west and within these codes, we know that we are required to continually account for why and how we are standing. Works like Fuck Knuckle evidence a watchful cultural self-policing that makes sure we’re all behaving in the correct way.  

This diffuse critical bent extends to Jon’s Don Watson-styled weasel-word critique of administrative culture – of those who do not say things clearly, who hide behind jargon. YourApplication Was Unsuccessful, 2022, is an example that is brilliantly of this moment. It captures the sting of rejection exaggerated by the blandness of bureaucratic response. Its gleeful tone even seems to celebrate the rejection; we can imagine the administrative officer, section head or agency CEO nonchalantly signing away an artist’s dreams. But we can also imagine the artist who suddenly finds themself unburdened from having to deliver on the vision they hustled together under extreme stress for a grant application. Freed also from the civil servitude of accounting for one’s practice to funding bodies.

The liberation of failure is differently expressed in Up Shit Creek, 2014, a slight abstraction of those very words. Similar to Your Application Was Unsuccessful, the painting has a fresh, modern pep. Perhaps this optimism implies that we’re not alone, and that, having acknowledged we are in a pretty bad spot, we can focus solely on getting out of it. There’s a relief in getting to this point and sharing the knowledge – a relief that is akin to pleasure. This work flirts with the compulsion to repeat traumatic events, and to get an elevated existential pleasure from complaint – a thrill akin to taking the mark or making the incredible painting. As practically-minded and sensible as Jon’s work might seem, it is perhaps mostly about the joy of feeling things intensely; he wants us all to leap, to extend ourselves and the world.

Of course, his attitude is based on a politics focused on the better elements of the egalitarian frame he holds up to scrutiny. At times, this is focused on particular issues. In one of his first paintings incorporating text, Peace and Love, 1991 his wife, Annie, is depicted taking on a boxer’s pose above a scene of American troops entering Iraq during the first Gulf War. The image channels Jon’s awareness of the ever-present war which broke out while he was in New York; it is also a homage to Alex Katz’s frequent depictions of his wife Ada, and is imbued with the feel of 1960’s radicalism. Annie’s chic vibe and clenched fists call for calm above the strife that rolls underneath her. As well as imbuing a kind of hopefulness, there is an ironic awareness that, despite the achievements of the 1960s peace movement, the American war machine had become even more powerful.      

Nonetheless, Jon retains his faith in collective action, for battles both big and small. This is seen in Let the Franklin flow, 2009, that refers to demonstrations against the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania, and takes its title from a 1982 song by the Australian activist band Goanna. The dam was being planned to support mining activity in an area of Tasmania with a delicate and rich ecosystem. Between 1978 and 1982, environmentalists, politicians and the general public joined to protest against the inevitable impact on the forest and wildlife. More than two decades later, Jon made the work to remind himself that groups can indeed come together to effect change; he needed this fillip as he and his colleagues protested new management structures at the VictorianCollege of the Arts where he was teaching. The work Group Tutorial,2013, is about this same moment, and is based on a flyer made to bring staff and students together to address the matter. Like Your Application WasUnsuccessful, the work expresses frustration with the nature of bureaucracies: he believed that new university protocols would compromise the school’s practical, artist-led culture.

This concern indicates a vital thread that runs through much of Jon’s work. We can see it as a study of energies, their release, their damming. He delineates how types of casual and formal governance operate, but he doesn’t claim one freedom is better than another. He leans against, and pushes at restraints to make their restraining nature visible. This tactic is clear in Undressing in Public Prohibited,2019, based on a photograph, by surf photographer John Witzig, of a graffitied beachside sign in Byron Bay. It speaks of too many laws, or the wrong laws, anda libertarian attitude that is oddly found in the more conservative parts of the country. The letters have an upright stuffiness to them, and are a bit spikey. We feel like we are being told off by both of its messages: the one telling us to obey and the one telling us there’s too many people telling us what todo. The work holds these elements of the ‘Australian character’ in interplay: on the one hand there’s larrikinism,‘she’ll be right mate’ and letting go; on the other there is the wowser, the town clerk and the public servant.  

This interpretation demonstrates how Jon’s work operates. He doesn’t offer a (fully fledged) critique of a particular issue. He rouses responses but does not attach an argument. Because of this, we can provide no excuses for failing to measure up. Moreover, Jon’s works reverse our typical understandings about pictorial perspective. Instead of guiding the gaze of the viewer through a scene to a single point that may or may not represent infinity like traditional perspectival paintings, Jon’s work gazes at us, holding us in its thrall with an infinitely receding field behind us.    

This requires that there is little perspective in the work itself, that we do not sink into it. In order for the work to speak of and from the world, it must not represent it as such. This flattening of the picture-plane began early in Jon’s practice and we can see its presence in works from the eighties such as All the Boys,1984; Firetruck, 1984 and The Party, 1986. Celebrating the places and people he came from, these works indicate that where he was moving to would incorporate the past. Their shallow depth of field coincides with a shift from representing a particular social world to relating what that cultural and social realm might say.

By making different kinds of images out of outlines and words, and letting them hover, Jon depicts universal pictures in the sense we might glean from Wittgenstein:

But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the background against which I distinguish between true and false.[11]

Jon’s work has always been about making the background active, making it a thing we can’t avoid. His continuing interest in the concepts of true and false as floating ‘problems’ which have energies we need to negotiate (but with no fixed coordinates to do so), gives us insight into the language games we are often unwittingly involved in.[12]


This sense of involvement – of how, if, where, why, one is involved in the work, in one’s life, in the world at large – is a fundamental aspect of both Nadia and Jon’s practices. The point is not necessarily to find a path to fixity, but to be in the flow of the problem and therefore to be in the world as much as possible. As visual artists, their material working-through of this challenge, aligns with Raymond Williams’ theory about how the world’s more complex elements and forces can be expressed:

Practical consciousness is almost always different from official consciousness, and this is not only a matter of relative freedom or control. For practical consciousness is what is actually being lived, and not only what it is thought is being lived. Yet the actual alternative to the received and produced fixed forms is not silence: not the absence, the unconscious, which bourgeois culture has mythologised. It is a kind of feeling and thinking which is indeed social and material, but each in an embryonic phase before it can become a fully articulate and defined exchange[13].  

While they draw from the tropes of modernism that render their works legible, both artists create ways to remain in this embryonic space, as they consciously and intuitively work towards picturing their practically felt experiences in play with the world around them. At the same time, each use their practical consciousness to unpick existing official cultural forms to critique and to reveal what is still possible.

Robert Cook
Curator, AGWA

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