‘Seeing the Now’ copyright Rachael Polson, 2009, Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours), Adelaide Central School of Art
… it is the artist’s task to find a form that accommodates the mess…contemporary sculptors try to make sense of the world around them by identifying paths to follow, or threads to pull, amid the glut of information, the profusion of visual images and the excess of visual objects. They recognise patterns in the chaos. They identify fragments as being part of the whole. 
Quick now, here, now, always – Ridiculous the waste sad time stretching before and after.
When we consider the meaning of time, it can be explained only as a by-product of events. One thing happens, and then another so only by two events occurring can a formulation of time come into being. Einstein described things as ‘events’ because a thing (…) exists in only one form in a particular place at a particular instant in time – at no other instant of time was it or will it be exactly the same again, for all things are changing constantly.
Amongst all the chaos that surrounds us, there are small fleeting moments worth noticing. A fleeting moment, although ephemeral can be profound and precious. My current work uses this optimistic idea as motivation to make formally based sculptures and paintings. Particularly they explore line, colour, and time. The works are developed by interaction with each other and I use photography as a tool for close observation. Subsequent works are developed through a process of “cross pollination” between media. Materials used include rope, thread, paint, acrylic sheeting, PVC, nylon thread, irrigation piping, Play-Doh, string, balsa, and lighting.
I want a sense of stopping time so we can have the chance to consider each moment more carefully. Particular emphasis is placed on human gesture, such as repeated subtle wrappings or the trace of a movement in paint. This is based on the notion that time can only be explained as a by-product of an event. The instant of “now”, and the value it holds, is subtle. It is something that connects us. I am not arguing that people don’t notice special things nor am I aiming to be didactic. Rather I am interested in the value of capturing a sense of time and movement and trace of human presence through artworks. My aim is to create opportunity for the quiet contemplation of something subtle, optimistic and pure in the context of a busy contemporary world. Hossein Valamanesh’s work seems a particularly relevant example of this. For example Leave your shoes here, 2008 by Valamanesh, invites viewers to slow down, contemplate “moment by moment and impel us to listen, to attend to every moment in its occurrence, for each exhalation, to listen for every breath.”
The poet TS Elliot writes about time and in particular the present moment. In his poem the Four Quartets he writes “all is always now.” He speaks of a moment “investing form with lucid stillness”. He describes the way a fleeting moment can be captured in our perception. The movement is stopped while the world moves around it.
This is the one way, not in movement
But in abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways”
Of time past and time future.
This way of regarding time is particularly pertinent to my work. Much of my work explores the notion of a trapped moment. It might be a moment that has been captured either by a repeated human action or by a trace of a movement. It involves the representation of a form which has come to stand in for the idea of movement. Here, the assumption is made that movement is inherent in a fleeting moment. The work of sculptor and film maker, Len Lye has explored this by making sculptures which literally move. While related, my work explores more the sense of movement and the distillation of the sort of moment TS Elliot alludes to.
According to Maurice Blanchot people in contemporary society are in a state of unconsciousness where “having always seen everything, they are witness to nothing”. He argues that people in contemporary society are in a state of boredom, their consciousness put to sleep. Nikos Papastergiadis explains that art in contemporary society can be viewed as being “expanded beyond the mere transmission of a particular message to a translation of the viewers’ attention”. This idea of translation sits well with me. In this way, rather than being didactic, the introduction of another point of view or opportunity for contemplation may reveal something otherwise not noticed. It can be quieter but just as strong in its impact. Papastergiadis believes that in contemporary art there is a “sensuous absorption with the present”. Perhaps then, a legitimate role of the artist in contemporary society is to provide opportunities for contemplation. My work is based on observation from the world we live in, but does not necessarily reproduce an aspect of that world. Rather it aims to capture an essential quality of it.
According to Roger Fry the essence of a subject was something that Cezanne and his followers explored.
They do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life.
Fry felt that most of the time we do not actually truly look at something. According to Fry, the distillation of formal properties such as line, colour, light, and space, play a strong part in our emotional response to art because they are connected to “essential conditions of our physical existence”. Equally Wilhelm Worringer argues that the value of formal properties in art, such as line, hold far more beauty and sense of transcendence because we can project our own feeling into it. Harold Osborne explains that the words ‘synthesis’ and ‘condensation’ were used by Seurat and Matisse to describe the process through which artists aimed to record the essential character of something. Osborne describes Abstraction as the process of generalisation and simplification. It is this sense of distillation which is present in my work.
One of the predominant formal properties in my work is line. This is because line indicates time through its continuous nature. It can also represent a trace of a movement or gesture and, as such, become a record of a captured movement or moment of time. A line can be both energetic as well as calming and still. A line is ideal for contemplation. Colour is also a strong formal element in my work. Here, colour speaks of optimism and is a method of engaging the viewer through the use of bright colours. According to Rudolph Arnheim colour is also a method of discrimination in the way humans perceive an object visually. I have used colour in my paintings, for example, as a way to draw a viewer’s eye to something. Equally, placing complementary tones together creates vibrancy while slight tonal variations speak of subtlety.
The Minimalists emphasised formal properties over representation or narrative. However, my work does not completely fit within Minimalism as it is clearly handmade. The move away from representation is deliberate in the hope that the work would be strengthened by its seemingly simplified and pure forms. This is an effort to speak of something precious, beautiful or sublime without the possible risk of sentimentality. While the forms are simplified in the hope that this speaks of some kind of purity, they are not designed or factory made like much of the Minimalists’ work. I have elements in common with artists such as Eva Hesse whose work is minimal and formally based but in which the hand of the artist is still visible. I would hope that my work has qualities in common with artists like Ernesto Neto whose work has been described as “more open to lyricism and nuance than your average minimalist”.
According to Anne Ellegood “artists have long looked for eruptions, or the anomalies within existing patterns”. While aspects of my work may draw to mind the work of artists such as Robert Smithson and Eva Hesse whose work has been motivated by patterns found in nature, this is not exactly what I am doing. Rather, I am looking closely at formal properties. I look for forms and qualities contained in my own work in order to use that information to make subsequent developments. Originally this observation came from the real world. I defined a fleeting moment as involving movement, interaction and gesture. Now these qualities are increasingly derived from the works themselves and the process of making them. This process has come to involve the extraction of the qualities that make up this sort of moment and the translation of them into subsequent works.
Derrida argues that we can only truly know something through translation. Rosalind Krauss states that “medium can only be constituted and known through use”. We are not then talking of Greenburg’s medium specificity, but rather in the realm of Rosalind Krauss’ writings. Krauss purports that we can only really ever understand a medium through using it and exploring the possible “dialogue between and across media”.  My work then, explores the expanded field of sculpture as well as painting. A painting then, does not have to take place on a canvas. For example “Captured threads”  is a translation of the nature of mixing paint pigment into the media of thread. They are based on my noticing the subtleties of the way pigment interacts and the way a brushstroke drags through the colours and mixes the tones. Equally so, a sculpture can be translated into the realm of painting through the medium of photography.
In line with Krauss’ series of essays, I am interested in what sort of interaction I can get between the materials I use. For example, in Figure 3, the painting and sculpture have been developed together and a sort of ‘cross pollination’ between 2 and 3 dimensions is achieved. The information the eye receives is merged and negotiated by the way colour and line is used in both works. Krauss argues the reason that artists’ works are still coherent despite their diverse material use is because of their constancy of thematic concepts. I believe that this is also the case for my own work. I am creating works which not only translate across traditional media but also are linked together by the overall thematic idea. In this way the preciousness of the present and the qualities of a fleeting moment are captured by recurring formal elements. According to Thomas,
in lieu of a readable subject, the work may be appraised for its formal qualities and its relation to existing pictorial conventions. Alternatively the work may be seen as more or less directly expressive of the artists’ subjectivity so that a painting may be viewed primarily for the way it marks the painters gestures, becoming almost a by product of the process or “action” of painting.
I would argue that this can also be the case within my sculptural work. In this way, for example, the wrapping of thread or rolling up of play doh can be valued in the work both for the formal purpose it may serve and for the indexical trace of a human action that is readable in the work.
It is particularly important for my work to reveal the subtle marks, traces or evidence of making an object. I want the viewer to notice the quiet remains of my presence, to see the trace of time held in the work through wrappings, unravelling, brush marks or the rolling of play doh, for example. Anne Ellegood states that contemporary sculpture “often reveals the marks of its maker”. She asserts that this may be due to a desire on the part of contemporary artists to express a desire for action, for movement or gesture to be present in preference to “stability or inertia”. For my own work, it is more that I want to capture time in the evidence left behind of human action. This trace can also be described as indexical. An index is a sign of something having happened, or evidence left behind. Celeste Olaquiaga describes the handmade object as carrying with it a sense of aura. She speaks of objects having the ability to be “infused with the iridescence of a special moment in time.” Artists such as Tom Friedman  and Janine Antoni load their work with human actions. Loading abstract and simplified forms with the evidence or trace of human action is a way to make the work more engaging, intriguing or speak of human endeavour.
Additional cohesiveness across a diverse range of media has been achieved by the use of what Morgan Thomas refers to as compositional device. In reference to the paintings of Mark Rothko, Thomas states that through the use of repeated visual elements throughout his work and that which was abstracted from previous works, Rothko was able to speak of “’transcendental’ experiences, of what is ‘timeless’ or ‘universal’ about the work”. In this way a repeated visual device can become a “schema”, a “format”, a “template” or a “signature” and bring to the work a sense of not a real image but rather a feeling about something. In my own work this repeated visual device could be said to be the reoccurring gestural lines prevalent particularly in the wrapped thread sculptures, the captured black piping, the finger painting and the boxed threads. This form, for me, expresses both the feeling of movement but also the captured stillness which I see as inherent in the way a fleeting moment leaves a trace on ones’ short term memory. It is also the form my own gestural marks have taken in previous related work. Michael Kutschbach uses the word ‘motif’ to describe the same thing. Derived from a gestural mark left in paint, Kutschbach built a body of sculptural work around this form. Kutschbach speaks of the gestural mark as a means of exploring the relationship between the physical body and the act of painting. Either way visual devices stand in for a feeling or an idea and are prevalent in my work.
Material choices are therefore crucial. Material exploration is based on formal properties rather than associated meanings. I have made a deliberate choice to avoid using found objects in my work. While the materials that I have used are fairly familiar materials and have associations with things we experience everyday (eg rope, string, thread), on the whole, they are not found objects. This is because I wanted to see if I could steer a course away from the possibly strong associated meanings that follow found objects. Last year I used old and new socks, pegs and washing lines as materials for making works about the absurdity of repetitive domestic life. With this in mind, Tom Friedman has been influential on my work. Freidman is successful in using found objects that the viewer is familiar with. His work is also strongly formally based. This year, however, I wanted to explore my ideas by taking a step further away from the familiar object into a language of basic ‘stuff’ in the hope that this would speak more clearly of the sense of purity I wanted. I was also aiming for a more universal feel about the work rather than the specific relationships that found objects might bring with them. However, this has not been rigidly adhered to. For example, I have used play doh, which may have associations with the world of childhood and play. But on the whole, I am more interested in the formal properties of the materials chosen (such as line and colour) than their possible associated meanings. Connections could be made between my material use and that of so called ‘textile’ artists such as Dani Marti, Louise Weaver and Janine Antoni. However, I prefer to consider the materials I have used primarily for the formal properties they represent rather than their historical, domestic or personal associations.
Links can be made between my work and the post minimalists. Artists such as Andy Warhol explored rule based art following a number of pre-determined steps in order to make art. However, my work is not completely rule-based. It is not as mechanical or political as the pop artists or the post- minimalists but the process of making the work is central to how it develops. Particularly I am taking the principles of what makes up my definition of a moment and applying them directly to the making of subsequent works. The possibilities held in the raw materials are also of crucial interest to me. The process of using photography to find new ways to consider materials and forms is a crucial element in making the works. It is more important to me that the viewer gains a sense of human presence, optimism and contemplation, than they ‘get’ that the works stem from the idea of a captured fleeting moment. As described by Sebastian Smee, the processes and construction of my works are integral to their being.
Finally the way photography has been used in my work must be explained. Photography has been used as tool for seeing and also as a means of capture. By the use of the close up and the exclusion of other information and isolation of forms captured in the lens, it is possible to highlight beauty in “what everybody sees but neglects as too ordinary.” Gerhard Richter enters in a dialogue with his own paintings through photographically enlarged details. In this way the camera is legitimised as a tool for noticing; for seeing things in a different way. According to Richter what matters is “always seeing” and he uses the camera as a tool to achieve this. Theorists such as Susan Sontag and Rosalind Krauss have described photography as a tool for deconstructing reality. It is my intention that the use of photography is a device to help make the works more accessible to the viewer by gently suggesting another way to see something which is subtle, precious or fleeting and to present a view which is unique or unexpected.
Rather than subscribing to one or other school of thought, my work is influenced by a “multiplicity of voices”. Scott Redford describes the contemporary artist as an aggregator. Aggregation refers to an information technology term for a “collator and interpreter of dispersed information”  or “a collection of links to others.” Nicholas Bourriaud explains that contemporary art is characterised by “the surfing of different disciplines”. This is partly what my art does, as it draws connections to a number of artistic traditions. In this way my sculptures and paintings take place in an expanded field. They are not limited to one material or tradition. They are subject to material cross pollination and are influenced by “divergent precursors”. But equally they are also clearly aligned with the traditions of abstraction and formalism, minimalism, expressionism and post- minimalism. As with many contemporary artists my work is heavily influenced by materials and the process of making the work as well as overall thematic concerns. In summary, I am interested in exploring formal properties of line, colour and time and showing the viewer what I have found to be extraordinary about them. Integral to this is the process of each work informing the next as well as careful observation of the extraordinary collection of fleeting moments that make up our existence.
Rachael Polson, 2009.
Figure 1, Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, thread, pvc, Each component 3cm x 3cm x 3cm.
Figure 2, Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, Photograph, 60 x 87 cm
Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, oil on canvas, rope, thread, fixings, approx 80 x 120cm x 60cm.
Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, thread, fixings, dimensions variable, (approx 80 x 25 x 25 cm).
Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, piping, thread, perspex, 40cm x 40cm x 40cm.
Rachael Polson, Untitled, 2009, paper, acrylic paint, pine, light box, dimensions variable, approx 57cm x 66cm x 90cm.
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 Anne Ellegood uses this term in reference to Rosalind Krauss’ observation of wide ranging use of media and experimentation within and around the traditional definition of sculpture. Rather than artistic works being limited to one material, the definition of sculpture has expanded to include a wide variety of works. My work extends this idea of cross pollination to include interaction between of works 2 dimensions and 3 dimensions. 8 Introduction Motley Efforts: Sculpture’s Ever-Expanding Field, Vitamin 3-d: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, Phaidon Press,
 Alexander Waugh, Time, Headline Publishing, London, 1999.
 Sarah Thomas, Hossein Valamanesh, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2001
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 Tyler Cann and Wystan Curnow (eds), Len Lye, Australian Centre for the Moving Image Victoria, Australia and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth New Zealand, 2009.
 Cited in Nikos Papastergaidis, Everything that surrounds” Art Politics and Theories of the Everyday 1998, 11th Biennale of Sydney, Jo Sparkes, Johnathon Watkins (eds) The Biennale of Sydney Ltd, Sydney.
 Roger Fry, Full quote: “They do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to mimitate life but to find an equivalent for life. By that I meant that they wish to make images which by the clearness of their logical structure, and by their close-knit unity of texture, shall appeal to our disinterested and contemplative imagination with something of the same vividness as the things of actual life appeal to our practical activities. In fact they aim not at illusion but at reality” Vision and Design, p167
 ibid p. 24.
 Patrick Hutchings 1997 ‘The Sublime: ‘a sort of delightful horror’ Arts Monthly June 1997 Number 100, pp.12-16
 Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, Elephant, Chicago, 1997
 Harold Osbourne, Abstraction and Artifice in Twentieth Century Art. Osborne states that “one of the most prominent aspects of the world to interest (artists) has traditionally been the physiognomic and emotional, that is the ‘expressive’, characteristics of things in so far as these are manifested in the their formal properties of colour and shape” p. 50, Abstraction and Artifice in Twentieth Century Art, 1979.
 Julie Ewington, Contemporary Australia: Optimism, Queensland Art Gallery, 2008 pp18- 24
 Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the creative eye”, 1974 revised ed 2009
 James Meyer, Minimalism, Phaidon Press, London, 2000.
 Sebastian Smee,“Asking the right Questions”, Art Monthly Australia, May 1990, no 99. p. 21
 Anne Ellegood, p. 8. Introduction Motley Efforts: Sculpture’s Ever-Expanding Field, Vitamin 3-d: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, Phaidon Press, 2009.
 Derrida cited in Rosemary Hawker’s article “Painting over Photography: Questions of Medium in Richter’s Overpainting, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Vol 8, Number 1, 2007 P 46.
 James Meyer, Minimalism, Phaidon Press, London, 2000.
 Rosemary Hawker ibid, referring to Rosalind Krauss’ discourse on Sculpture in the Expanded field.
 Rosalind Krauss, Sculpture in the Expanded Field October, Vol 8. (Spring 1979) pp 30-44 www.situations.org.uk/_uploaded_pdfs/Krauss.pdf viewed 27 September 2009
 Gustavo Fares, Painting in the Expanded Field, Lawrence University www.janushead.org/7-2/Fares.pdf viewed 27 September 2009.
 Figure 1, Appendix
 Figure 2, Appendix
 Figure 3, Appendix
 Rosalind Krauss, cited in Rosemary Hawker;s article, “Painting over Photography: Questions of Medium in Richter’s Overpainting” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Vol 8, Number 1, 2007 P 46.
 Morgan Thomas, ‘An Abstraction of Feeling: Mark Rothko and the Subject of Aesthetic Judgement’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Volume 2, Number 2, “Affect and Sensation”, 2001, pp 96-115.
 For example, acting as visual punctuation points which cause the eye to stop or change direction.
 Anne Ellegood, p. 9. Introduction Motley Efforts: Sculpture’s Ever-Expanding Field, Vitamin 3-d: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, Phaidon Press, 2009.
 Charles Saunders Pierce cited in Geoffrey Batchen. Short Memory/Thin Skin. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Volume 2, “Affect and Sensation”, 2001, pp191-206. Pierce refers to this in relation to photography. However, I believe the term also has relevance in relation to evidence of human action.
 Celeste Olaquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom: A treasury of Kitsch, 1998, Pantheon Books, New York chapter The Debris of the Aura pp. 80-95. According to Olaquiaga, it is possible to argue that in contrast to mechanical production, an object that is handmade can be granted “a transcendental dimension for seemingly bridging the gap between sensorial perception and symbolic apprehension. Within the parameters of use value the aura remains intact; the connotations of authenticity and uniqueness permeating process, object and subject.” ibid p. 95.
 For example, Tom Friedman, Untitled, Toothpaste applied to a wall, 1994, p. 58 in Bruce Hainley, Dennis Cooper and Adrian Searle, Tom Friedman, Phaidon, 2001
 For example, Janine Antoni, described in Ginger Danto “Evidence of the artist’s presence – a frayed stretch of rope where she has stepped, her body’s impression in the hemp – will remain as silent but eloquent traces of her passage” p23. Danto Ginger, “Life as Tightrope: Weave. Walk and Fall” New York Times, Sunday, August 24, 2003, pp 23-25. Luhring Augustine Gallery Website, http://www.luhringaugustine.com/index.php?mode=publications&object_id=16 24/09/2009.
 Morgan Thomas, An Abstraction of Feeling: Mark Rothko and the Subject of Aesthetic Judgement” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Volume 2, Number 2, “Affect and Sensation”, 2001 pp96-115.
 ibid, p. 101
 ibid, p. 97
 Nathan Goldstein explains that “to draw a subject’s gestural expression is to draw the major moving actions and general form character of its parts rather than their specific physical characteristics” P. 2 The Art of Responsive Drawing, 6th Edition.
The term gestural expression has also been used to describe the work of the artists such as Kandinksy and Paul Klee as well as Abstract Expressionists such as Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock in Werner Haftman, ‘Masters of Gestural Abstraction’, Art Since Mid-Century: The New Internationalist, Volume, “Abstract Art”. pp13-49.
 Figure 4 Appendix
 Figure 5 Appendix
 Figure 6 Appendix
 Figure 1, Appendix
 Michael Kutschbach, Surface in Flux, www.michaelkutschbach.com/kutschbach/text_varga.html 29/06/09
 Michael Kutschbach, Masters Thesis, Stuff in Flux: An Exploration of Uncertainly within Surface as the result of material based painting practice, South Australian School of Art, May 2004
 Roger Fry’s writings discuss this issue. He writes “All art depends upon cutting off the practical responses to sensations of ordinary life, thereby setting free a pure and as it were disembodied functioning of the spirit; but in so far as the artist relies on the associated ideas of the objects which he represents, his work is not completely free and pure, since romantic associations imply at least an imagined practical activity. The disadvantage of such art of associated ideas is that its effect really depends on what we bring with us: it adds no entirely new factor to our experience” Vision and Design, p. 169
 Hainley,Cooper and Searle, Tom Friedman Phaidon, 2001.
 Mark Glimcher, Logical Conclusions: 40 Years of Rule-Based Art, Pace Wilpenstein, New York, 2005.
 Sebastian Smee , “Asking the right Questions” Art Monthly Australia, May 1990, no 99. p. 21
 Susan Sontag, On Photography, p. 89.
 Martha Buskirk, ‘Medium and Materiality’, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003
 ibid p. 117
 Rasalind Krauss, Reinventing the Medium, Critical Inquiry, Winter 1999, Vol 25, No 2, University of Chicago http://www.boconnell.org/LINKS/CLASSES_PDFs/Sculpture3.1/krauss.pdf 24/09/2009
 Sebastian Smee, Asking the Right Questions Art Monthly, May 1990, no 99 pp20-21
 Scott Redford, Changed Circumstances: Learning from London” Contemporary Visual Art and Culture, Broadsheet, Volume 38.2, June –Aug 2009 pp 96-99
 ibid p. 97
 ibid p.97
 Nicolas Bourriaud, cited in Anthony Gardner and Daniel Palmer, “Nicolas Bourriard Interviewed,
 Rosalind Kraus, ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, October, Vol 8. (Spring 1979) pp 30-44 www.situations.org.uk/_uploaded_pdfs/Krauss.pdf viewed 27 September 2009
Gustavo Fares, ‘Painting in the Expanded Field’ Lawrence University www.janushead.org/7-2/Fares.pdf viewed 27 September 2009.
 Anne Ellegood, Introduction, p. 6 Vitamin 3D: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, 2009