Glasshouses, Parties, and Memories with Friends
An Essay on Georgia Arnold's "PLOT"
Elam prizegiving, 2019
My partner asked Georgia what her work was about. In typical Georgia-fashion, a mindmap of ideas and imagery came out: taking photographs of glasshouses; flowerbeds and garden lines; creatures, colours, and critters. I grew up with a cousin whose family owned a glasshouse where they farmed tomatoes, and I understood. Imagine a glasshouse, rows upon rows of tomatoes lined up on white plastic sheets that cover dirt beds. Strings come down from the glass ceiling so that the plants have something to climb up. It is humid and it smells like sink residue. And trolleys lay about for easy tomato picking, and there are bees flitting in and out of cardboard boxes, harmless and busy. But on the outside, you know that the air is cool. You know that below the white plastic is a network of roots, worms, and faux dirt that lies upon the original dirt of the land. The condensation that blankets the glass walls fogs up the movement of unkempt trees and grass outside, but you know they are there and what they are despite the haziness. It is a completely different world in a glasshouse, a world that is carefully curated and where organic matter is puppeteered under controlled conditions.
Georgia’s work addresses this disharmony of worlds and worldbuilding by exploring the possibilities of spaces and objects. It also reimagines worlds by considering different points of view, giving agency to all the elements, materials, and figures that live within these places. Referring back to the glasshouse, these paintings and objects go beyond what is, and explores the underground, the escapees that poke out through cracks in the glass, and the movement that sits outside. They also draw our attention to frames and containment - what holds the glass together and what controls the environments that we situate ourselves within? Take the aluminium work for example. Casting is usually a rigid process, where material takes on the hardened appearance of something that already exists. In this piece, however, the tactility of the aluminium is emphasised through the fluid forms that are an extension of Georgia’s drawing practice. There are hints of process in the dimpled and pockmarked surface. The texture of the casting material comes through, creating pores in the metal. And the pour itself is present in the object’s roughness, bits of overflow connecting flowers to foreign and disjointed stems. The piece relies on the frame and container, but it also challenges its convention by grounding the processes and bringing it all back to the actions and decisions of the artist: the tracing of drawings and thought into the casting sand; observing the environment around to inform placement of forms; an awareness of negative space and depth; and the site of pouring where the metal navigates tunnels and dips to complete a large three dimensional object that considers everything that could be, whilst remaining tactile, flexible, and open to external influence, change, and material mishaps.
Parties at the 545
If you know art people, you know we like our house parties. Not quite K Road, and not quite an art gathering, house parties are a setting where us art folk can escape from the night club environment where good dancing and hookups are the go-to. They also allow us to stay far away from art gallery openings and events, where drinking Sauvignon Blanc and Heineken is seen as a gateway to networking with NZ’s best of the best artists, art writers, and art curators. At the 545, there were familiar faces illuminated by the one red light bulb in the lounge where we all chatted and swayed. Vape smoke and shared cider boxes made the room hazy. Strangers became new friends. Georgia and I would flit between dancing, playing balancing games, and trying to interpret the feeling of vanilla ice cream, which we both ate from the same tub. Georgia’s paintings and the use of glaze as a drawing medium on her ceramic objects can be likened to these memories: the merging of light, sound, and colour; strange people and misplaced objects; and a confusion of thought that is somehow familiar and welcome.
These works are like colouring outside the lines, and then erasing those lines so that the subject matter is refreshed and more interesting than originally intended. Rogueness becomes whimsical through the use of opposing colours, and the crayon feel of the application. These paintings are experimental and bright, harbouring these concepts of worldbuilding and creative feminist agency by creating portals into other worlds, other lives, and other alternatives. Deities dance in gardens and faces emerge from explosive, unnaturally red underbrush. In a sense, the scenes depicted are alternate parties in unknown universes, but instead of a red light bulb in the lounge of a friend’s flat, the world is red and the people here always dance on the precipice of reality and the blurriness of excitement. And the figures, objects, and places on the ceramics compose a fairytale land, one that is opportunistic and seeks imagination above all else. But this is the sense I get from PLOT overall. A fairytale. An alternative landscape of altered forms that exist within this reality, but have been changed to suit a vision of liveliness, vibrance, and escape; a catalyst. PLOT is a space before it is an exhibition, and in this space there is release.