Lesley Giovanelli & Beata Geyer - Margaret Roberts

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Chromophobic - Lesley Giovanelli Beata Geyer
Rocketart
Newcastle New South Wales
18 November - 5 December 2004

Margaret Roberts

In Chromophobic, Lesley Giovanelli and Beata Geyer have collaborated to use their related but distinct languages in an exhibition that engages the spatial framework of the gallery in both serious and humourous ways.

Their work is related because both artists work with the apparent subordination of shape and
space to colour, but within this realm, each artist’s work is distinct. Beata’s colour in Chromophobic is like segmented, digital worms, flat on the walls, made as lines of oblong mdf panels 15cm wide and 40cm long, painted with a range of strongly coloured household paints. The panels are joined along the walls—and occasionally the floor—in lines that change direction from vertical to horizontal to vertical, once, twice or several times, then stop. The panels seem to have multiplied randomly and unpredictably across whatever surfaces happen to be there, similar to the way liquid spreads out over an uneven floor.

Lesley’s colour is made from dyed sheep’s wool, carded so that it is open and light, making it appear to rise off the surface like coloured mist. In Chromophobic, she has painted a coloured square on a wall, or on an oblong board on blocks on the floor or against a wall, leaving the casual brush strokes visible, but ensuring that the coloured wool hung or laid over it vibrates against the rough colour underneath, making it seem that the wool is rising off in response to the high energy colour harmonics. Sometimes the wool is so dense its three dimensionality begins to suggest rich organic shapes in the way clouds do, making a large soft red puppy seem to appear just behind the front wall.

The title, Chromophobic, identifies the gallery space of Rocketart as the likely subject of the exhibition, as its clean white spaces (and one yellow stripe) give contemporary art a forceful presence in the street. Visitors are expected to take for granted the lack of colour in contemporary art spaces and how that works to background the gallery space so that the artwork can be seen free of the considerations of ordinary space. Chromophobic collapses the decades-old critique of the convention of the white-cube in a humourous anthropomorphism (as, strictly speaking, only people have phobias) making us think of the convention as some sort of illness, towards which we need to show patience.

The framework and history of this convention enables us to see that Beata has used the gallery’s oblong row of three white rooms as an architectural prototype that she brings into the artwork as small oblong panels. We can believe that it is just the addition of colour that has made these panels multiply randomly throughout the space, retaining their architectural ancestry by seeming to only know the right angle, but otherwise demonstrating a spontaneity that shows by contrast, the blank reserve that architecture is designed to have as a contemporary gallery space. The collaboration seems designed to demonstrate a simple ritual cure for this enduring modernist restraint—by Beata repeatedly painting representations of the architectural space with colour (life), and Lesley doing her part by bringing them forth into the gallery space as forms that are increasingly energetic and life-like.