Alex Seton : The Island - Preview

Jennifer Smyth-Davey tells of her experience at the Members' Preview

 

Alex Seton : The Island

The February preview for members and guests once again proved the value of artist conversation. Those who attended could not fail to be impressed by the technical skill underpinning Alex’s works and by their enquiring, compassionate voice. Just as Odysseus-an inspiring force for Alex -guided his crew, Alex manouevred us on a journey around several installations on Friday night. His hands-on approach allowed us to feel a connection to his practice.

The Island, curated for our Gallery, explores the role of Australia in the refugee and asylum seeker debate. The choice of marble as his medium reflects the artist’s love of a classic material usually reserved as he says for ‘kings and queens’. Alex, however, uses this voluptuous substance to explore ideas surrounding refugees, the polar opposite of the ruling class. The marble seems to dignify their journey.

His installation Someone died trying to have a life like mine 2013 is a long string of twenty eight life-jackets. This work was inspired by an incident in 2013 where unaccompanied jackets were washed up in the Cocos Islands. The physical struggle to survive our remote waters and the unknown stories of the wearers are frozen into these marbles. It is fitting that instead of using European Carrara marble, Alex used local Wombeyan marble to reinforce that the plight of the refugee is an Australian concern. These lifejackets are so poignantly realistic that it was only the occasional glistening speck of quartz that gave them away as marble rather than fabric. The hushed lighting in the gallery really complemented the solemnity of this installation.

 We moved on to Oilstone 04 Saturated. A rusty liquid suspended an outboard motor in an almost- plasma screen. Was it some Hirstian fluid- blood? It was thick, thick engine oil. An ordinary outboard motor sculpted in marble has metamorphosed into an eerie, drifting specimen perhaps mimicking and reminding us of the journey of many to our shores.

Paper Armada 2015 again showed the contrast of using masses of beautifully placed and delicately wrought marble boats (fashioned with a dentist drill!) to examine the onslaught of the relentless and hopeful journeys to our island. What a sight looking down from the overhead stairwell to those stone origami!

Alex stated that his exhibition ‘forces a disposition’ where the viewer must respond to his work. Its disturbing beauty certainly sets up a dialogue.

 


 

Image : Alex SETON engaged in discussion among his works, foreground: Someone Else’s Problem (maquette) 2015  Bianco Carrara marble, timber. Artists Collection - Background: Last Resort 2014  Wombeyan marble. Gold Coast City Gallery collection.