Catalogue essay by Abbra Kotlarczyk
In the opening and closing scenes of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, a succession of slender, broken yellow lines flicker at centre screen. These lines—the spine of a highway stretch—create a force field around an otherwise tortuous and entangled plot. As if standing in as narrator, the lexicon of the highway appears at various points throughout the film to re-centre its tangential meanderings (and they are tangential!)
In a series of new drawings and prints by Northern Rivers artist Christine Willcocks, the yellow insignia of highways and pedestrian passageways exist as a placeholder to re-orient us; through rural, urban and psychogeographic spatial scores. Reminiscent of these Lynchian lines, yellow ink is employed as a framing device to contour and contain a suite of more incidental leitmotifs. In a sparing effect, minimal geometric abstraction rubs up against more embroiled monochromatic imagery of trees, mountains and rocks. This pairing announces a stylistic re-enactment of the experience of moving between landscapes and physical and psychological thresholds. For this new series of works, Willcocks draws on her protracted encounters in various natural and urban landscapes; from the rainforest of her home and the central mountain district of New Zealand, to the cobbled streets of Paris and Melbourne.
On the human instinct to follow lines and partitions, I consider the task of circumnavigating a sports oval where white spray paint is used to demarcate the terms of the game. There is the area inside the field, and then there is the area outside of it, with various peripheries of containment beyond it. As I walk in rounds, I focus in on the neatly manicured surface of the earth, host to a kind of evolutionary relinquishing. The past exists of the stuff beneath our feet—ancient holloways, the lacuna of rivers run dry and native songlines now performed as roisterous chants from off-and-on field.
In Crazy Pavers, tectonic plate-like pavers cavort as if to a Len Lye scratch film. There is a sense of emancipation in the relationship between compositional elements—the stones peripatetic to the embrace of the habitual yellow. This clamping down on the natural elements reads as a conversation about how humanity holds the reigns on such grand wanderings as climate change and global refugee migration. Elsewhere in Memorial Stones I and II, a pair of smaller monoprints are rendered by name and cadence in apropos to Willcock’s preoccupation with remembrance and memorialisation. Along with these works there are others that omit all traces of yellow. It is as if they lay a case for the softening that occurs once the body resettles back into the earth after death, when the recalcitrant markers of the modern civilised world are no longer needed.
For Willcocks’ way of working, there is a magic that hangs in the balance between the happenstance of printmaking and the controlled discipline of drawing. These mediums are actants that elude easy definition—both agitate between spaces of abstraction (in the form of frottage and plate-rubbings) and representation (in the depiction of rocks and mountains). Resolution occurs as a line of support between these various states—it is analogous to the return of highway markers when the land under foot is roiled of clarity; and when, as Smithson says, mental capacity “crushes the landscape of logic under glacial reveries.”
- Smithson, Robert, “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects (1968)” in Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), 100.