Archive for May 13th, 2014


Review: ‘Standing Stone’ by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 17th May 2014


Catherine Evans. 'Standing Stone' 2014


Catherine Evans
Standing Stone
Aluminium, steel, volcanic rocks, sticky tape
7 x 3m
© Catherine Evans
Photo: Matthew Stanton, 2014



I like this exhibition, I like it a lot.

The premise, spelt out in the intelligent and articulate catalogue essay by Laura Skerlj (below), is the holistic connection between an Aboriginal stone circle of the Western Victorian Volcanic Plains used for astronomy > the moles on the artists back as lexias or nodal points of energy > and the energy of celestial bodies in the cosmic sky, arranged by humans into pictures.

Evans precariously suspends pieces of rock (taken from near the site of the Aboriginal stone circle) in the air on the end of long poles in the position of the moles on her back – and then maps out the energy lines between them, connecting them with translucent Sellotape on the gallery wall. These lines become a trans/figured form of ley line, those lines of energy that exist within the earth that link spiritual places together. The lines could also be linked to reflexology, chakras, the positioning of stones on the body in reiki healing and Kundalini: a form of feminine shakti or “corporeal energy”, an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force. As the press release notes, “Standing Stone encompasses both the geographic and the corporeal time scales in order to examine the latent histories of these materials – that traverse the mineral to organic, the human and geologic, the infinite to the micro. At once personal and universal, Standing Stone opens up compelling new dialogues about the body and materiality.” The work traverses both time and space, macro and micro. It undermines dichotomies and makes liminal connections which allows the viewer to embrace a quality of ambiguity or disorientation. Ultimately this lets them see the world and the cosmos from different, multiple perspectives via new associations and energies.

There are a couple of missed steps. The colour pink (associated with the flesh of the body) on the poles did not really work for me. It was too didactic. Better some translucent perspex rods that would have continued the theme of the Sellotape and would have made the rocks seem to float in the air more, made the balancing more ambiguous. Both the press release (“the raw materials of photography, such as unprocessed photographic paper exposed to ambient light”) and the catalogue essay (“Flesh-pink geometric shapes, made from unprocessed (and still-processing) photographic paper, provide platforms for rock-relics: two materials accumulating time at vastly different rates”) make reference to elements that were not in the exhibition. Flesh pink geometric shapes were to be placed under rocks on the ground and this would have made the flesh pink rods seem more logical and tied the exhibition together… but they were not necessary. While the installation of such a work is always going to be a fluid process, and the pared down version is ultimately a lot better, it is unfortunate that the catalogue had been printed and the press release not amended to reflect the changes. Such is energy and life.

The other element that envisioned a jarring note was the image of the bruise on the thigh of the artist (which I initially thought was an elbow). A beautifully ambiguous image in its own right I can see why Catherine included it in the exhibition (as it links specifically to the energy of the moles on her back), but it brought to my mind issues of domestic violence, control and power, and I don’t know whether these additional thoughts needed to be placed in the mind of the viewer. I loved the image, I liked some of its energies but others, not so much.

Having said all  that, this is a fascinating, intelligent, thoughtful and beautiful installation. Like the artist herself, it has great energy and presence. I really enjoyed spending time with both.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Catherine Evans for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting and to Laura Skerlj for allowing me to publish the catalogue essay. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All artworks courtesy of the artist, installation documentation by Matthew Stanton, 2014



Catherine Evans. 'Constellation II' 2014


Catherine Evans
Constellation II
Ballpoint pen on photographic paper
21 x 30cm
© Catherine Evans



Standing Stone is an exhibition of photographs and sculpture that transposes the marks on our own bodies into a large-scale map using basalt boulders, sticky tape and the raw materials of photography, such as unprocessed photographic paper exposed to ambient light.

In this exhibition the artist will create a large-scale constellation where precariously suspended volcanic rocks collected from the Western Victorian Volcanic Plains mark the positions of moles on the artist’s own back. With reference to the Indigenous stone arrangement, Wurdi Youang,* that is situated on these plains, Standing Stone encompasses both the geographic and the corporeal time scales in order to examine the latent histories of these materials – that traverse the mineral to organic, the human and geologic, the infinite to the micro. At once personal and universal, Standing Stone opens up compelling new dialogues about the body and materiality.

This exhibition is the outcome of a mentorship with artist Susan Jacobs, supported by the Victorian College of the Arts and Arts Victoria through its Graduate Mentorship program. Accompanying the exhibition will be an essay by Laura Skerlj.


About the artist

Catherine Evans is a Melbourne-based artist who incorporates photography, video and sculpture to explore the latent history of materials. Often working with volcanic rocks and the raw materials of photography, she juxtaposes and isolates them against images of the body, testing the limits of scale and gravity.

Since completing first class Honours at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2011, Catherine has participated in many group and solo exhibitions. She is a current recipient of the inaugural VCA Graduate Mentorship (2013-14) and was selected as a finalist in the Substation Contemporary Art Prize (2013 and 2011). Grants include an Australia Council ArtStart grant (2012) and a National Gallery of Victoria Trustee Award (2010).

Press release from the Blindside


This exhibition and research took place on the lands of both the Wurundjeri and Wathaurong people who have been the traditional custodians of these lands for thousands of years, and whose sovereignty was never ceded. This exhibition is supported by the Victorian College of the Arts and Arts Victoria through its Graduate Mentorship program.

*The Wurdi Youang stone arrangement in Victoria was built by the Wathaurung people before European settlement, but all records of its use have now disappeared. This egg-shaped ring of stones, about 50m in diameter, has its major axis almost exactly East-West. In a paper published in May 2013 in Rock Art Research, Ray Norris and his colleagues confirm a suggestion (originally made by John Morieson) that some outlying stones seem to indicate the setting positions of the Sun at the equinoxes and solstices, and have shown that these same astronomically significant directions are built into the shape of the main ring. They also show, using a Monte Carlo statistical test, that this is unlikely to have occurred by chance, but instead the builders of this stone ring intentionally aligned it on the setting Sun on these astronomically significant dates. More information…


Installation view of 'Standing Stone' by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne 2014


Installation view of Standing Stone by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne
© Catherine Evans
Photo: Matthew Stanton, 2014


Installation view of 'Standing Stone' by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne (detail) 2014


Installation view of Standing Stone by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne (detail)
© Catherine Evans
Photo: Matthew Stanton, 2014




We have long looked skyward, consumed by a desire to arrange celestial bodies into pictures. Sometimes these formations are difficult to see amid the city’s night-haze of light and pollution. Yet, on a drive out of town, these cosmic arrangements come into view. Constellations describe a visual relationship between groups of stars, which, over time, become culturally recognisable. To make a constellation, a dreamer must draw a line from one bright body to the next: the stars implicated in this formation need not be close to one another in reality, but merely form a visual engagement when viewed from an Earthly vantage point. For millennia, ancient cultures have made these connections, constructing apparitions in the ether that recall existential stories. However, these cosmic sketches have also served as insightful gauges of time.

In the volcanic plains of Western Victoria – the third largest of its kind in the world – lies a geological constellation. It is an Indigenous ‘map’ made of ancient stones, named by the Wathaurong people as Wurdi Youang. This egg-shaped arrangement is relatively humble in size, and up until recently was thought to be an initiation site. However, Wurdi Youang is now being considered a geological record of equinoxes and solstices, with each stone set at a considered angle, marking the movements of the sun over time.1 For artist Catherine Evans, this cosmic calendar held within it a latent agency that was both intimate and expansive. Through its very construction, the Indigenous peoples of the area had used a prehistoric material to articulate a schema that connected themselves, and their activities, with the unreachable workings of the universe: “I find the contrast in time scales at this site fascinating – that on the one hand we have an ancient time scale of the land (geologic), and on the other the human time scale, which in comparison is only a blip.”2

In Evans’ current exhibition, Standing Stone, the artist has used rocks from the plains nearby Wurdi Youang to recreate a constellation of markings found on her own body. The layout for these marks was initially realised on an inverted black and white photograph Evans took of her back: in this image, her usually pale skin appears darker than its illuminated blemishes. Using a biro and ruler, moles and freckles were connected with diagrammatic lines, just as planets, stars and dark nebula are drawn to one another in astronomical illustrations. In the exhibition, this exact configuration of blemishes is re-presented using volcanic rocks in a sculptural installation. Across the walls and floor, each point is connected with a gleaming line of transparent cello-tape.

Here, two seemingly opposing containers of time – the body and the universe – are depicted as insulated, yet reflexive, systems. Just as skin imperfections are reminders of age, trauma, exposure and adaptation, the individual rocks at Wurdi Youang are conscious notations of the sun’s movements in the sky. Each rock or blemish represents a passed event that, in conjunction, forms the schema for a cosmos. Although more commonly understood as the extraterrestrial zone outside the Earth’s atmosphere (and therefore, outside of ourselves), the etymology of ‘cosmos’ is derived from the less-boastful ‘ornament’: a sphere seen as ultimately expansive is reined into a handheld trinket. This oscillation becomes an underlying consideration in Evans’ new work, as temporality swings between what is known, even embodied, and what is all encompassing.

In understanding these holistic systems, we can draw on biosemiotician Jakob von Uexküll’s concept of ‘umwelt’. Umwelt describes the ‘phenomenal world’ or ‘self world’ of an animal, as shaped by a series of functions necessary for survival. These sets of functions are programmed to suit each specific organism, creating a harmonious motion, or pattern, for existence. In consequence, all animals, from the simplest to the most complex, are fitted into their unique worlds with equal completeness: “A simple world corresponds to a simple animal, a well-articulated world to a complex one.”3 From this theory, both the humble body and the celestial sphere could be seen to exist within an umwelt, or environment, tuned to its innate processes.

In Evans’ work, it is the configuration of a constellation that represents these sets of motions as markers on a temporal scale. For example, the blemishes found on our bodies, or the rocks moved by Indigenous people at Wurdi Youang thousands of years ago, exist in perfect accord with each organism, or system’s, relative lifespan. That could be a sunspot the artist developed one summer, 17 years into her life, or the fusion of gases that combined to form a star 13 billion years ago in the Milky Way’s galactic halo. As Uexküll explains, the animal or subject creates time through its own set of harmonious processes, no matter how simple or complex: “Instead of saying… that without time, there can be no living subject, we shall now have to say that without a living subject, there can be no time.”4

The visualisation of these essential movements is euphonious. Feminist and cultural theorist Elizabeth Grosz articulated Uexküll’s umwelt as nature set to counterpoint.5 In her interpretation, the environment works in a similar way to a musical melody, following a set of instructions that can be syncopated with another. She recalls one of Uexküll’s most examined specimens, the tick, describing the way in which it “lives in a simplified world, a harmonic world of its own rhythms and melody.”6 This melody, according to Grosz, is composed of the animal’s umwelt, as the conjunction of its three most vital processes: moving up a twig following the warmth of the sun; smelling the butyric acid expelled from the sweat of an animal; dropping onto the animal to suck its blood. In turn, the tick becomes what she describes as “a connective, an instrument.”7

This musicality is innate within Evans’ new work. Here, rocks intonate the room, propped at varied heights like notes on musical score, while reflective tape connects the specimens to one another in directional locomotion. Flesh-pink geometric shapes, made from unprocessed (and still-processing) photographic paper, provide platforms for rock-relics: two materials accumulating time at vastly different rates. Just as the vision of celestial space seen at night expands our image of the natural world, the constellation found on the artist’s back is magnified out into the gallery as an assemblage that connects ancient time with personal time. It is within this singular temporal frame that the intimate (that nebula-birthmark on your wrist) is a reflection of the processes that, even now, evade us (tangible stars imagined into dream shapes).

Consequently, Standing Stone envisions landscape as a phenomenological site, where the body and the universe share the same harmonic processes. As British archaeologist Chris Tilley explains, to perceive landscape as phenomenological resists any precise topographical boundary: as we have seen, landscape in its holistic form – as a cosmos – can transcend terrestrial limitations. Instead, he perceives landscape as “embodied sets of relationships between places, a structure of human feeling, emotion, dwelling, movement and practical activity.”8 In this way, Evans presents a landscape that is both intimate and expansive. Just as the celestial exterior looks down upon us, it shifts into us, reflecting back the documents we make. These documents are many, printed on our bodies and arranged in sophisticated groupings in the environment. The constellation, therefore, flips and folds, not just across a horizontal plane, but vertically, between what is cast in the night sky and its earthen recollection.”

Laura Skerlj is a Melbourne-based artist and writer

Laura Skerlj website


Installation view of 'Standing Stone' by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne (detail) 2014

Installation view of 'Standing Stone' by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne (detail) 2014


Installation views of Standing Stone by Catherine Evans at BLINDSIDE, Melbourne (detail)
© Catherine Evans
Photos: Matthew Stanton, 2014


Catherine Evans. 'Bruise II' 2014


Catherine Evans
Bruise II
Framed photograph
51 x 76cm
© Catherine Evans
Photo: Matthew Stanton, 2014



Level 7, Room 14,
Nicholas Building,
37 Swanston Street,
Melbourne VIC 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm


Laura Skerlj website

Catherine Evans website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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