26
Aug
09

Review: ‘Symmetrical Spirit Guides and Fractal Alchemy’ by Carl Scrase at John Buckley Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th August – 5th September, 2009

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Carl Scrase 'Fractal Alchemy' installation view 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ installation view
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ installation view
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

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Carl Scrase
Fractal Alchemy’ (detail)
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ (detail)
2009

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This is a slight exhibition of collages and constructions by Carl Scrase at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne. Ironically, given the nature of the catalogue essay by Tai Snaith (see below) that waxes lyrical about the mystery and magic of symmetry, synchronicity and spirit, this exhibition lacks the depth of purpose needed to address spiritual elements that are the very basis of human existence.

The biomorphic forms that go to make up the work ‘Fractal Alchemy’ (2009) fair better in this regard, the various size bull dog clips offering nonrepresentational patterns that resemble living organisms and genetic structures in shape and appearance. At their best these elemental shapes start to transcend form and function to become something else: an instinctive and intuitive connection to the inherent fold in the universe, like the embedded pattern, the DNA template in a blank piece of paper before the folding of the origami model. Unfortunately the wonder of this piece is short-lived. Unlike the ever magical repetition of fractal geometry with its inherent iteration of forms that constantly a/maze here the shapes are not stretched far enough, the exposition not grounded in broken or fractured forms that invite alchemical awareness in the viewer.

The collages are less successful in this mystery project. Made from cut-up images from magazines these symmetrical constructions lack spiritual presence. Like the aspired to symmetrical beauty of a human face it is, paradoxically, the irregularities of the human face that are their most attractive feature – our individuality. In the photographic stereoscopes of Victorian landscapes it is the difference between the left and right image that adds three-dimensional depth in the eye of the viewer, that transports them to other places, other worlds. In the collages of  Picasso it is the irregularities that also transport the viewer into a hypertextural, hypertextual world of wonder. Scrase’s collages on the other hand, are flat, rigidly symmetrical life-less things that belie their stated aim – to be kaleidoscopic spirit guides in search of a pattern for inner peace. Although some of their forms are attractive their is no wonder, no my-story to be gleaned here.

Overall the work lacks the gravitas and sense of fun in and through the act of creation that the concepts require: to see things clearly and to ground this visualisation in objects that transcend ‘now’ and extend spirit into the eternal. These constructions do not stand as ‘equivalents’ for other states of consciousness, of being-in-the-world, nor do they offer a re-velatio where they open up ‘poetic spaces’ in which the alienation and opposition of inside and outside, of objectivity and subjectivity are seen to be disconnected. The Japanese ‘ma’, the interval which gives substance to the whole, is missing.

To express deep inner emotions and connection to spirit requires utmost focus on their expression-in-the-world, a releasement from ego and a layering of materials and form that transport the object and viewer into an’other’ plane of existence. Unfortunately this work falls short of this state of no-desire.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ (detail)
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ (detail)
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Fractal Alchemy' (detail) 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Fractal Alchemy’ (detail)
2009

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“Carl Scrase is a perfect example of an artist marking the turn of a tide. At this distinct ebb of the ravenous, rampant seas of consumption and production we’ve been surfing for the past couple of hundred years and with the onset of the new flow, towards the riptide of Mayan prophesies of fast approaching 2012, Carl is on it, or should I say in it. And he’s splashing around.

This new generation of creative humans (to which Carl belongs) are not really concerned with how much money, time or status something is worth, or what kind of flashy object the human next to them owns. They seem to be more interested in what kind of wisdom can be procured, how many friends can be found and how a thing can be recycled or was born from something else. It is all about a search for the spirit, the feeling. Moreover, what it means. We are getting sick of the bland smog of consumerism, the stench of blatant big business and seem to be looking for escape pointers, for enlightenment, for answers and for CHANGE.

Carl’s work suggests his role as an artist is almost akin to a kind of medium slash alchemist – a self-proclaimed, new-age, anonymous shaman of sorts. Big boots to fill indeed, but don’t worry, its not like Carl is about to declare himself a Secret Chief and start welcoming in the new Golden Dawn or reading your tarot at openings. Nor is he concerned with the alchemical properties and behavior of inorganic compounds or scientific explanations or measurements of the planets. His interest lies in noticing the sparkling mist of questions surrounding these things. The mystery and magic of how these marvels, such as symmetry and synchronicity occur in nature and how we can possibly learn from them and experience them in our day-to-day lives.

A true spiritualist in an atheist age, Carl uses his work as a kind of cipher for sorting his beliefs via a material creative process. His collages begin with found images from magazines, chosen relatively arbitrarily. His sculptures begin in a similar fashion with found objects, usually of the mundane or mass produced variety. It may be that they are all parts of images of human faces or just a complete add for a pair of Crocs or a hundred boxes of bull dog clips. Starting with the colour and then cutting the shape, or with the objects and then finding their natural function- almost as if listening to an instinctive, visual Ouija board somewhere in his subconscious. Carl then arranges the pieces through play. Similar to the way that you need to relax your eyes to receive the effects of a Magic Eye picture (remember them?), Carl relaxes his mind in order to let his collages find their final composition. This allows a kind of subconscious code to come forward, thus acting as both a reflection of his thoughts but also a kind of guide or suggestion for other’s thoughts, and perhaps something deeper that we don’t understand just yet.

I remember as a child I found an empty plastic tubular casing of a biro pen whilst walking along the beach one day. It had been washed and scratched by the ocean and gave the pale blue, semi-translucent plastic a soft almost sparkly effect. I picked it up and instinctively looked through the tiny tunnel at the sun. The way the sunlight refracted through the plastic before reaching my retina made me think of a magical kaleidoscope and I immediately classified it as having ‘special powers’, granting it prime position in my pocket for months. It became a type of personal talisman or spirit guide.

Traditionally, in animist belief systems (such as Shinto and certain parts of Hinduism) sprits need either an object or a medium (ie, thunder, lightening, wind, animals, plants, etc) to be experienced or seen by humans. They need something else to exist in order to communicate with us. Carl’s images and objects seem to suggest or demonstrate this kind of medium as well as subtly questioning the message. In the same way that a child finds wonder in the changing symmetry of a Kaleidoscope before they even understand the science of the mirror involved, there is a wonder in these images and objects as soon as we encounter them. A wonder in creation, in ritual, in synchronicity and light. A wonder in life.

For Carl, the practice of Alchemy (and in this instance one might just as comfortably read Alchemy as Art) is ‘not the search for some magic potion’ but rather the ‘awareness that all life is eternal and the inner peace that comes from that realisation’. Just as we recognise similar patterns within nature, like the spiral formation of a shell or the layering of petals on a flower or the direction of the hair growing on a man’s scalp, we can notice these patterns on a spiritual and philosophical plane also. It doesn’t take a genius to recognise a similar search for meaning and self-realisation being revisited amongst some of the most interesting artists of our time, but let’s just hope that the search continues to prove that the process of making art itself is both the question and the answer.”

Tai Snaith
2009

Text from the John Buckley website

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Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090504' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Spiritguide 090504’
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090509' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Spiritguide 090509’
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090520' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Spiritguide 090520’
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090601' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Spiritguide 090601’
2009

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Carl Scrase. 'Spiritguide 090617' 2009

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Carl Scrase
‘Spiritguide 090617’
2009

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John Buckley Gallery

8 Albert St, Richmond VIC 3121 Australia
Gallery hours: 11 – 5 pm, Wednesday – Saturday

John Buckley Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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