Sarah Goffman: Christopher Chapman


Sarah Goffman: XXXXXXXL -Front Room, Sydney, December 2002

In June I met Sarah at Ruth's party. It was an Australiana theme and Sarah
was dressed as a swaggy. At that time, Block gallery was across the road
from Ruth's place, and Jason and Oscar took me over there to see Sarah's
show. I got to see it twice because, later, we went there again to find a
stash of beer.
This night-time viewing has remained with me because Sarah often uses
coloured lights in her installations, and the effect was striking in a
modest and poetic way. Here, there were rotating gels, so that things were
bathed in shifting hues. This added to the floaty, underwater feel of the
work: plastic bags like ghosts, a strange wading pool full of floating
cigarette lighters, an inverted clear-plastic umbrella containing a variety
of found rings (jewelry), and other collections of things...
At Artspace as a part of the Lempriere prize exhibition, Sarah's work was
more hermetic but equally atomised, this time using the natural light and
structure of a gallery window (at least that's what I remember). What struck
me initially about the work at Block was how so many kinds of different
vectors were overlaid and how the thing seemed like a diagram or schizoid
map. There were connections between objects and materials because of their
materiality (plastic, water, light), and networks of formal associations.
And what made this stranger was the social connections that many of these
things carried: their individual histories, their previous and on-going
changing uses.
At Block, this happened too. Collections of stuff (found and made, like the
clock faces); things whose use values were stretched (big pants / curtains);
and the use of lights and transparent materials to set up a supremely
evocative atmosphere. Here there was living plant matter too: branches in
vessels of water, some long lengths of branch under-lit by a strip of white
LED, and outside the door in the hallway, a potted shrub behind a leaning
sheet of glass. Within the installation as an overall thing were
micro-narratives: a little box with a photo and some wire, and collections
of images and objects grouped according to unknown formulas. The thing
smelled nice because of honey incense and a smelly advertisement for Majora
perfume torn from a magazine and taped to the wall. Spookily, inside
water-filled bags and vessels were plastic skeletons, and strange-looking
clumps of waxed wool. These elements, and the central placement of a sheet
of glass on trestle legs, under-lit, gave this work the sense of some kind
of laboratory, or hot-house, moreso than the other two I had seen. As it got
darker the subtleties of the lighting began to transform and enhance
elements of the work. After the opening was a party, and late at night, the
installation, and the experience of being inside it, became stranger and
more mesmerising.
Chris Chapman