LAST night we opened a most remarkable exhibition, Paul Selwood’s Perspective Cutouts, consisting of large two dimensional sculptures that are fixed to the walls.
What’s this about two dimensional sculpture, you may well ask.
Well, I call these flat steel wall pieces “sculptures” despite them being only a couple of millimetres thick, because they are successfully illusionistic.
They look like they are three dimensional and the subjects of the works are large building blocks or stones piled on top of each other, evocative of ancient ruins, or stones on a building site during construction. They look like they are floating in the air, and this exhibition definitely has the much sought after wow factor.
Selwood has achieved this incredible feat of making large steel building blocks float by using perspective mastery. His 40 plus years making steel sculptures have made him a master of patination, and each apparent plane of the geometric shapes he uses is patinated or painted a different shade.
So well done is this that the illusion of three dimensions led a woman at the exhibition’s opening in Sydney to try to rest her glass on one of the “stones”.
The friends of the gallery and the Orange Regional Arts Foundation are keen on acquiring one of this ex-Orange artist’s work for the gallery, which might also be shown at the hospital. They’ve been busy raising funds to purchase from the exhibition.
There was a special cocktail party at the gallery on Thursday night to give donors a preview showing, and the wow factor certainly did its bit.
This is a knock out exhibition. The formal tensions are beautifully balanced by the intriguing textures of the works and their deep rich colours.
The works are evocative of many things. Particularly, one thinks of the classical past and the importance of order and reason in the life of man, but they are at the same time evocative of the romantic tradition, where the broken column signifies the triumph of the senses over the life of reason.
As I said above, we don’t know whether these building blocks are “constructed or deconstructed”, so both readings exist at once. The works also suggest many other things and will remind different viewers of different things.
Overall, the viewer of this exhibition will come away with an enlarged understanding of the forms and modalities of sculpture, and I believe that art that gives us a new way of seeing, is the best art.
Selwood lived in Orange until he was 17, although he now lives in Wollombi. His son Hui is also a sculptor, based at Hill End.
Paul Selwood has a wealth of overseas experience, teaching at various art colleges in England, exhibiting as well as travelling extensively. His work within the last decade has been informed to a great extent by the environment in which he lives, the countryside just outside the village of Wollombi, two hours north of Sydney.
Selwood has been known for his adherence to an abstract formalist sculpture, and has been much influenced by his teachers in Lyndon Dadswell and Godfrey Miller, and by colleagues in England, Anthony Caro and David Smith.
His work differs from theirs in many respects, but particularly in that their sculpture might be said to be “forms in space” whereas Selwood has always tried to bring space into his work as a potent force, and his work has been called “forms and space”.
For many years Selwood has made three dimensional sculptures, but in the last couple of years he has blazed a unique trail, by making two dimensional pieces.
His “incorporation of space” is now complete, as space in these works is entirely illusionistic and is completely contained in the work.
It is a powerful experience to see the works of Perspective Cutouts, as they are strong geometric constructs, apparently built of rectangular blocks. They are disquieting works, with a pleasing tension resulting from the apparent thrusting into the viewer’s space.
I suggest you go and re-familiarise yourself with the well sculpture at the eastern end of the gallery building.
Young people sitting on the work had broken off one of the bowls that lined the “backbone” of the sculpture.
We have finally found a metalworker capable of spinning us a replacement bowl and we have taken the opportunity to clean and re-gas the tank of nitrogen underneath the metal structure which contains old clothes and old memories of the people of Orange.
So the piece looks as good as new! (Except that, as intended, the clothing in the glass topped tank has been faded by the sun and is beginning its long process of breaking down to its constituent atoms.)
Many thanks to local metal worker extraordinaire John Siret who conducted the repairs and strengthening of this work, which is an important piece.
We still have some places available in the series of workshops we run for young people and adults in the school holidays.
These classes are often fully subscribed, so please ring the gallery soon on 6393 8136 if you would like to book a child in.