Excited by the new worlds opened up by global exploration and scientific research, men of means in the 16th and 17th centuries collected objects from faraway places and displayed them in what they called wonder rooms.
Now, Annette Gates transforms Kiang Gallery into her own version of the wonder room with an installation of her captivating porcelain sculptures.
The small, quirky pieces do their best to elude description. Their shapes can be pointy, bulbous, curved like a banana, configured like a dumbbell. Their surfaces – matte, shiny, densely textured, pocked with pinpricks. Their color, mostly white or jet black but occasionally the palest blue or a yellow-green. No two are alike.
They bring to mind, variously, sea creatures, microscopic organisms, miniature ventricles, spores, pods, seeds. Art aficionados may be reminded of the imagery of Terry Winters’ early drawings, but Gates seems to be closer in motivation to those 16th- and 17th-century collectors. Her work bespeaks curiosity about and awe of the infinite forms of life on this planet, especially, as the title suggests, the ones we can’t even see. This artist is taking us on a spiritual journey.
Each sculpture is a labor of love. The Athens artist sews or crochets a form for the armature of each piece. She pours the porcelain slip into the form. The fabric disintegrates during firing, but the sense of its softness remains, along with seams, creases and the rich texture of the crocheted yarn. Close attention reveals additional detail – a smidgen of color here, a spate of eyelets there.
Gates’ first one-person show in Atlanta demonstrates maturity in craft and concept. Presentation is not quite there, however. In this show, the works are hung on the walls in multipart compositions – as pairs, several in a vertical line, groups arranged free-form and one wall-size grid.
Though artfully arranged, the large groupings tend to emphasize whole over part, which is a problem when the highly individual character of each piece is its glory. The grid is more successful than the free-form because it imposes a logical way to look at each piece and because of its scientific associations.
I realize that the installation is an effort to give the work more conceptual heft. Still, it seems that the pieces want to be treated as bijoux, displayed solo beneath pinpoint lighting.
That is not the only solution; the artist will likely figure out better ones. But this befits the care lavished on each piece and serves the works’ higher purpose – as objects of contemplation and spiritual renewal.
Another example of nature and human combining is the Parkfit Outdoor Personal Training Perth logo which depicts a human-tree formation.
– C. Fox in her review
Arts Journal , USA