27th June 2008 — 31st July 2008
(1) Did you just hang up on me? Yes. You were being aggressive. I’m sorry if you thought I was aggressive. I was just trying to bring you up to speed. Yes, but you did it in an aggressive way. Don’t do it again. Oh, I’m scared. Pause. Don’t do it again.
(2) This has nothing to do with the Karin Rugabber’s first solo exhibition currently showing at Greengrassi - nothing save that the atmosphere of assurance and composure that existed through the doors to the gallery stood clearly at odds with the gaucheness of a spat between two art gallery staff in an art gallery reception.
(2.1) There is an equanimity to Karin Ruggaber’s series of wall-mounted plaster sculptures. Perhaps more ‘humility’ than equanimity; Lions with their tails wrapped round their bodies, eyes closed and chins pressed to their chests strike a rather compact and rounded pose for an animal jagged at 5 of it’s six extremities. A couple of foxes or jackals turn their backs in synchrony, 2 storks bow their tapered beaks, and a lone totemic canine is frozen on hind legs, paws crossed and head averted. Faced with such humbleness, it’s hard not to be emotive. Like the bowing lions at the gates to a mansion, these figures display grandeur whilst remaining hospitable. (One expects a couple of pineapples thrown into the mix).
(3) Interspersed with these representational forms are more abstract structures, conglomerations that warrant myriad similes (cracked ceramic, state divisions, aerial views of CBDs, for example). These abstract compositions made up of several smaller waste-mould casts together construct a potentially infinite whole, yet one that appears to be struggling to wholly connect.
(4) Animals and abstractions shown here as a string of individual components do the same thing: they exist in a dynamism of repulsion and attraction, where connections are quickly made then instantly rebuffed. It would appear that Ruggaber is employing some logogrammatical system for the transference of meaning – meaning that one has to decode. But this rather contrite collection of bas-reliefs reveals more an interest in materials and process rather than such linguistic or conceptual motivations.
(4.1) Indeed, there is a distinct lack of language that surrounds this exhibition. There’s no overarching title or press release, no interpretation labels – even the titles of each artwork is purely perfunctory, offering only the most rudimentary description (Relief #63, Relief #58…). As viewers we have become conditioned on provisions of ‘ways into the work’, and are left balking when faced with a lack such fodder. Without it we become reliant on our own interpretation.
(5) I’m slightly anxious then to conclude this article by peppering it with adjectives like ‘refreshing’ and ‘open-ended’, ‘intuitive’ and ‘self-assured’ to describe Ruggaber’s work. Such terms sound a bit insipid. But one doesn’t get the feeling as though one is being subjected to a ruse, that there is something to necessarily ‘get’ that is momentarily being withheld by the artist. On the contrary, you get the impression that, although the work appears relatively slight at first, the artist is showing you all her cards. The result is refreshing, open-ended, intuitive and self-assured work.
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