Article excerpt

The sculptures and photographs in Sydney-based Malaysian artist Simryn Gill's recent exhibition, like her project "Standing still," 2000-2003, a series of photographs documenting derelict properties throughout Southeast Asia, and Garland, 2006, a selection of waterworn objects found during beachcombing excursions, occupied the shifting and indistinct boundary between abandonment and reclamation.

As is characteristic of Gill's practice, the works in the show were marked by a visual modesty that belies the ramifications of the stories of their genesis. In Mine, 2007-2009--a collection of spherical objects either found or constructed from bits and bobs picked up near Gill's studios in Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia--the convergence of the personal, the poetic, and the historiographic that makes up her art emerges most strongly through the list of materials, worth quoting in its entirety for the light it sheds on her sensibility: "paper bark, banana skins, copper wires salvaged from a burnt-out printing press and other discarded bits of electrical wire, hair bands and shoelaces found on the street, various termite soils, river clay, aerial roots from ficus trees, tropical vines, rubber casing from looted copper wires, stalks from gourd plants, scraps of paper, mangosteen skins, bark from date palms pulled off by nesting ibises, yams, cardboard boxes, cow pats, pomegranates from a friend's fruit bowl, a brick tumbled into roundness by the sea, ivy, a rock, a ball of string, rubber-bands, and palm leaves." Looking at Mine with this list in mind, one recognizes that much more is in play here than a simple craftlike notion of artmaking by which detritus is refashioned into quietly beautiful constellations of objects. The work is, rather, an artistic intervention embedded within historical, economic, social, and environmental narratives. It unfolds within a conceptual framework that--as the punning title suggests--posits the relationship between the personal and the material world as what enables both the excavation of meaning and the creation of art. …


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