Low Cloud – Matt Arbuckle

4 May - 2 June 2018, Parlour Projects, Hastings
By Rosheen FitzGerald

It is a source of continuous wonder how the space at Parlour Projects reinvents itself cyclically, with the turning of the moon. Gone are the plinths displaying Maria Moyer’s tender, benevolently bulbous sculptures – gone but not forgotten, some are still on display on the mezzanine, and available to purchase if you happen to have a few grand burning a hole in your pocket and a toddler free home.

Now the gallery is transformed and the floor left bare; all the better to see Matt Arbuckle’s two-dimensional works – an exercise in the superlative and diminutive, and all that exists in between. His canvasses, stacked in an off-kilter double row, demand immediate attention, while aluminium engravings brood on the opposite wall. Here the collaborative curatorship between artist and gallery director, Sophie Wallace, reaps dividends. The viewer is held in the space between large and small – of wanting to step back and needing to step forward – and is thus drawn to interact with the work.

The overwhelming greyness of the palette is thrown into stark relief by the central, off-centre canvas, 33°55’19.8”S 151°17’18.0”E. The use of a yellow ochre dye (hand mixed by the artist, using a prosaic stick blender) in the place of the ubiquitous greyscale, acts as an anchor for the eye, its presence like a sidelong glance into an alternate dimension. Its red accents only serve to emphasise its apparent desire to be beheld; in turn highlighting the muted mood of the other pieces. Its title refers to a pinprick in the ocean off Bondi Beach – in the Australia that Arbuckle now calls home. Two other similarly named pieces refer to oceanic locations to the east and west of his native Auckland. It is a testimony to their haunting affect that my first thought was to dredge for bodies rather than to dig for treasure.

There is a photographic element to the work, a shimmering on the surface of both stretched polyester and metal that alludes to an origin that never was – a hyperreal simulacrum of sorts. There is a congruent depth and texture throughout the pieces – whether they be smears of oil pastel or enamelled dremel-made gouges. Daubs of colour or dark struggle through the surface hinting at what might lie beneath. Dye pools in the fabric alluding to topography, folds of flesh, lines left by a twisted sheet on skin after a fitful sleep. Over these suggestions, economically placed, the barest demarcations lend the illusion of depth, achieving so much with so little. Copper tones seep in at the edges, speaking of wear and decay. Tension is held in the scratched surfaces speaking of confusion and dis-ease. There is a muted horror to the work, a delicious creepiness that, as the seasons turn inwards, is reflected in the world outside the window.


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