22 March – 14 April
On his arrival in Melbourne from his native Poland, Samara Adamson-Pinczewski’s grandfather earned his living as a rag and bone man, before taking ownership of Elgin Scrap Metals in Carlton. When he died (before his time) his wife and daughter continued to run the business – a rare and courageous undertaking for two young women in the late 1960s. The likes of tradesmen and antique dealers would come and go to the warehouse brimming with shining, rusting, and buckled scraps of all sorts, the most beautiful of which were collected by the women and brought into the home as decorations and marvels to wonder at. It was in this environment of determined women and beautiful reflective objects that Samara grew up and developed her visual aesthetic. As a student, her interests went to The Oblique, Gestalt Psychology, Modern and Contemporary architecture, and later to experimental paints and pigments. The strength of the present exhibition attests to a fecund coming together of these influences.
There’s a temptation to call the present works ‘wall sculptures’, rather than paintings. Whilst their three dimensionality, their object-ness, is no different to the shaped paintings made in the 1960s by artists such as John Peart and Trevor Vickers; Peart and Vickers’ works can be fully appreciated when looking straight at them, whereas Adamson-Pinczewski’s cannot. One physically has to move around her works; come towards them and move back again, walk past them, to experience all they have to offer. This is what you expect to do when looking at sculpture, which activates the space around itself and in which the viewer can move. This is also so for Samara’s paintings; they’re not fully activated until the viewer moves about them, and with them, lead by their exquisitely painted surfaces.
It is the paint used to create these works, and the handling of that paint by the artist that makes for such complex viewing. Since her residency at Golden Artist Colors in New York, Samara has continued to master the use of the iridescent, metallic, fluorescent and phosphorescent pigments they produce. These are experimental paints, on the cutting edge of paint development (both artistic and industrial) and Samara has achieved things with these substances that she was told was impossible. The iridescent and metallic pigments create a ‘colour-shift’ effect, whereby the colour changes when viewed from opposite angles. Additionally, the fluorescents create a sharp glare effect, similar to strobe lighting, when used on the surface, as well as a halo-like flare on the wall behind, when used on the reverse of the work. And then, the phosphorescents only become evident when the lights go out; they glow in the dark, having taken in the charge of natural and artificial light. These paintings have a night-life. This is why you cannot say you truly know these works until you’ve moved around them for an extended period of time, and why we’ve chosen not to print a catalogue for this exhibition, but rather tried to communicate the nature of these works on our website through multiple photographs taken from different angles and at different times of the day.
The specific inspiration for this series of works was a visit to the Church of St. Bernadette du Banlay, an example of Brutalist architecture built in 1966 and designed by Paul Virilio and Claude Parent. The founding principle of the design was the pair’s theory of the ‘Fonction Oblique’, whereby the convention of building on the horizontal or vertical is literally broken by sending the architectural lines of a building off the diagonal or by blocking them all together. The sense of sudden jarring or disorientation that this produces is exemplified at St Bernadette and translates directly into Samara’s existing practice of devising geometric formations that are themselves Oblique, fractured, and yet resolved. The artist studied and photographed the interior and exterior of the church throughout the day. These photos were converted into monochrome line drawings, then made into studies in aluminium sheeting; each line, fold and hole in the study referring to a wall, shadow or void in the building. For the final works, made of custom-cut plywood, the artist undertook a painstaking process of trial and error to select a colour and application technique for each plane of the composition that would produce just the right balance of movement and tension, but also harmony.
Adamson-Pinczewski’s works are at once challenging in their complexity, and deeply satisfying in their resolution. They are explosive in their energy, and at the same time, are jewel like pendants suspended on the wall. They have a visceral force to them akin to the Brutalist architecture that inspires them and to the tenacity of the woman that made them, and to those in the metal business who came before her.