Light Touch | Dana Lawrie
Dates: 24 January - 20 February 2014
Where: odradekaeaf @ Australian Experimental Art Foundation
From: Current Projects @ Ryan Renshaw Windowbox
Writer: André Lawrence
Dana Lawrie is a Brisbane-based visual artist. Her practice explores themes of permanence/impermanence through self-portraiture. Exploiting the subtleties of paint, her works play the material’s ability to imbue the sense of immediacy—of bodily touch or trace—against connotations of ‘archival’ and ‘ever lasting’ painted artwork. Dana’s recent work has been increasingly informed by the repetition and transformation found within painting processes and how the act of painting places the artist relative to ‘time’ and in turn, ‘duration’. The works developed as part of Dispatch use photosensitive, flower-based ink that Dana has made based on the principles of anthotype photography. Allowing the exposure of non-lightfast ink in the window space and its gradual fading to speak of her own bodily impermanence.
Dana is a recent honours graduate of Queensland College of Art, and was a recent finalist of The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize, Sunshine Coast Art Prize and was featured in Test Pattern 2012 at Ryan Renshaw Gallery, Brisbane.
André Lawrence is an emerging visual artist and independent curator currently practising in Adelaide, SA. Of French-Australian descent, he was born in the Northern Territory, moving to France at a young age and returning to the NT as an adult. He commenced his Visual Art studies at Charles Darwin University in 2007, transferring to the University of South Australia in 2010 where he graduated with first class Honours from a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Sculpture in 2012. André is currently a curatorial intern at the University of South Australia where he curates the West Bar Student Gallery and is undertaking a Masters in Visual Art & Design (Curatorship). He has initiated a number of curatorial projects including From Dust to Dust at Seedling Art Space (2012), Amounting to Something, a cross-cultural collaborative project at Nexus Multicultural Arts (2013), Northern Window at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation’s odradekaeaf window space, and has been awarded the 2014 AEAF Emerging Curator Mentorship for his upcoming project 135th Meridian East. His practice is largely informed by materiality, memory and displacement, his cultural hybridity and a desire to create connections between people and places.
The Hourglass and the Sun: bodily alchemy in the work of Dana Lawrie
by André Lawrence
Human beings have long observed their existence, embracing or despairing at the vicissitudes of the body: that omnipresent reminder of the inescapable passing of time, of our own impermanence and impending mortality. Our physical forms are born, made to bloom, age and change, subject to the same entropic forces that affect all other matter in our known universe, shaped by chance and alchemy, only to eventually fade and return to the dust from whence they came. Entropy in scientific theory - referred to as the Arrow of Time - embodies a set of principles whereby matter is placed within a unidirectional time-affect continuum where the rate of ‘decay’ of matter can be measured, or at least observed, in relation to the forces it is being subject to over time.
Among other such theorems correlating Time to a perceptible influence of change and transformation, entropy - in conjunction with an awareness of our human existence - is a most appropriate testament to afflictions of the body, to states of change over the life-Time it personifies, to its place within a knowable then, a now, and a conceivable future – the hourglass of our lives. For all its resilience and adaptability, the physical body is frail, finite in time and constantly reacting with its immediate surrounds, exposed to forces such as heat, wind or light which weather, erode, dry, and crumble. This process and its traces on the body represent in some ways evidence of our experience of the world.
Dana Lawrie’s installation, Light Touch, dispatched to the odradekaeaf from Current Projects, seems to allude to such processes of bodily transformation, personal reflections on time passing relative to the body of the artist herself. The odradekaeaf 24:7 window space sits high in an alleyway of red brick buildings, a well-trodden corridor bathed in sunlight that connects Adelaide’s busy West End streets to the Lion Arts Precinct courtyard, its art and cultural organisations and adjacent University campus. As one weaves through the alleyway, the window gently towers over passers-by and is especially eye-catching at night when lit by fluoro light. Lawrie’s installation, comprised of a length of fabric spanning the height of the window and two small mixed media portrait drawings on board, engages you with its softness and grace, lithe and soothing in appearance as the work seems to project a quietude, a meditative stillness in its simple composition and gentle, corporeal colours.
The two small, evenly spaced portraits on board appear to the bottom left of the window, faint renditions of the artist’s own features floating lightly on a ground of Hellenic white. These self-portraits resemble one another in composition, one bearing likeness to an astute anatomical study focused on the face, with precise lines and coloured with pale, sparse and delicate blemishes, tones and hues while the other appears cruder, featuring a painterly wash of sullied green. Lawrie states that each artwork she creates, she considers a self-portrait, and these twin depictions seem to suggest an intimate observation or interpretation of the self in varied states or being, sitting firm as they are juxtaposed next to the tall, floating textile piece. The fabric, which hangs delicately taut in its vertical expanse, reminds one of skin, youthful and silken, bearing a central vertical line of oblong pale-tan dots resembling thumb-prints that progressively fade in hue down the length of the creamy material.
This enigmatic upright line of blotches on skin-toned cloth conjures allegorical notions of bodily presence, of traces or marks left behind by the artist’s hand. Lawrie’s work has been described as ritualistic, enlivened with processes of repetition as a marker of time. Repetition and ritualisation, in life as in art, can invariably be aligned with aspirations of permanency in the face of change, embodying a yearning of the human spirit to make tangible the intangible, to subdue within the limits of our reach the often perplexing and arbitrary nature of our physical existence. Lawrie’s gestures, in her application of paint, have bodily qualities that place the artist firmly yet faintly within the work, delicate disappearing traces that evidence the artists’ ghostly presence. Self-portraiture presents an opportunity for the artist to bear witness to aspects of the self, actual, imagined or illusory, and in this case, Light Touch seems to speak to us of this gentle and curious observation, a documentation of states of inner being through the representation of the artist’s actual and imagined outer shell.
Lawrie professes to an interest in the archival potential of the painted artwork and “how the act of painting places the artist relative to time and duration”. While more durable than other mediums, the relative permanence of paint and its potential use as a device to record and commemorate impressions from life contrast very intriguingly with the artists’ experimentation with light-sensitive flower-based ink. Her paintings on board combine oils with a home-made flower petal ink attributed to 19th century anthotype photography printing processes. These light-sensitive inks are derived from an emulsion created from plant matter combined with a dilutant – often alcohol or water – and are made to fade through positive exposure (as opposed to negative) to sunshine, revealing layered gradations of colour. This reactive process again seems to link the work to our own changing biology, to time-affect transformation through entropic forces beyond our control. It brings an alchemical charge to the piece, a performativity of materials that breathe life into the work and at the same subject it to the unavoidable fade, again a metaphorical allusion to our ephemeral and ever-changing physiology. As a detached observer, this subtle transformation can only be appreciated over time and strikes me as a desire to both apprehend and confront the Hourglass through a commemoration of this passing moment in the artist’s life rather than decry time slipping away; a devotional gesture to our timely beauty and the grace of the ageing body.
 Dispatch 14: Dana Lawrie, Light touch, exhibition floorsheet, odradekaeaf, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, 2013, http://aeaf.org.au/exhibitions/odradekaeaf.html
 Kate McKenzie, Athena Thebus & Dana Lawrie, catalogue essay, Addition 3, Addition gallery, 2012 viewed 19th February 2014, http://additiongallery.com/addition3/katemackenzie_athenathebus_and_danalawrie
 Gilad Hirschberger, Dan Shaham, The impermanence of all things: An existentialist stance on personal and social change, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya. 2012: p.3, viewed 11th March 2014, http://portal.idc.ac.il/en/symposium/hspsp/2011/documents/chirschberger.pdf
 Dana Lawrie, Ibid.