Review: Indian Chamber


Lisa Lerkenfeldt

AK_Indian_Chamber1_1880px Anna Kristensen, Indian Chamber (2011), oil on curved ply, 2.6m height, 11m circumference, 3.66m diameter, Photo: Silversalt photography. Images courtesy of the artist and Gallery 9.

 

As I stood inside a cylinder, around me, eleven, one-metre plywood panels composed a 360-degree panoramic oil painting of the Jenolan Caves’ Indian Chamber. The rock room was densely decorated with throwbacks to the immersive panoramas and wallpapers of the 1800s, I was unable to absorb the complete vista at once. The artist, Anna Kristensen’s, play on the subject matter and genesis of painting in caves was immediate.

Direct allusions to myths of departing lovers tracing silhouettes on cave walls to immortalise a presence1 was absent, instead human interaction in this grotto was first seen by way of a handrail in the foreground. Brush strokes served to simultaneously preserve the artificially lit and relatively new fencing and the stalagmites that formed layer by layer somewhere within the last 340 million years. My eye began chasing the mysteries of peripheral vision. As I circumnavigated the work, the human desire to control, imitate and preserve nature boomed.

Recalling advice on how to navigate labyrinths and guided by an inclining staircase, I pivoted to the left, and was drawn up to a dark zone. Attracted to the shadows, in blackness I looked for evidence of Jenolan’s micro-bat colonies or the prehistoric cave mushrooms discovered in Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1874). Inside this cylinder and metaphorically outside the square, I felt a connection with stair, tunnel and cave-dwelling communities. With the cylinder being intimate, indeterminate and shadowy I felt comfortable in actively appropriating the built environment by assigning it with my own meaning, renovating it according to my own needs and questions.2 I wondered if our social attraction to indeterminate areas and nomadic ideas is actually forced temporarily by our inability to afford anything permanent?

 

AK_Indian_Chamber5_1880pxAnna Kristensen, Indian Chamber (2011), oil on curved ply, 2.6m height, 11m circumference, 3.66m diameter, Photo: Silversalt photography. Images courtesy of the artist and Gallery 9.

 

I arrived at a basin, extra brilliant tones of colour recharged my retina. Hyped apricot detailing on white flowstone revealed the trickery of depth and light as it was happening. It’s as if with Indian Chamber (2010) Kristensen is dealing in the oldest mode of illusion in the arts as a way to discuss the increasingly invisible technology behind the immersive and illusive environments of Olafur Eliasson, or Werner Herzog’s 3D film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). As her painting failed to achieve the exact similitude of a photograph, it shifted the work into a territory beyond the definitive, absolute detail or purported truth of the photograph. This imbued the work with a nostalgia and generosity that is inherent in explicitly exhibiting the dualism of illusion and materiality. The optical tricks that suggested a larger room, than that which was before me, also celebrated painting as ‘no other enigma but that of visibility’.3

Almost coming full circle, a drapery deposit entered via my eyes and was filtered through the scenery of my mind. I continued to be impressed by its gummy nature (a geological reference or perhaps incidental to oil paint?) and its symbolic relevance to the veil of ‘Maya’—a Sanskrit term translating to ‘not that’ or ‘illusion’. In Hinduism, Maya is to be seen through like a veil, or an epiphany to reveal a transcendental truth, that physical reality is an illusion. It’s the idea of liberating the soul through perception of duality—no distinction between what we perceive, what we are and the universe. Twisted attempts at perceiving perception and reality returned me to the cave before what looked like a subterranean evolution of the sweet potato, where I was forced to accept what I perceived for practical purposes.

To the sound of my own breath within the acoustics of the cylinder I exited as I entered, via a pyramid of stairs on either side of a door. From the outside, Indian Chamber looked like a space vessel, citing the honest, modernist designs of her father’s architectural practice. Kristensen failed to consider using native timber for a work that is locally associated yet plywood’s natural grain has links to Jenolan’s Karst (limestone) geological formations. Inside Gallery 9, the chamber transported me elsewhere while I physically remained in the room. My experience was someplace between the oldest known open caves in the world, the gallery walls and myself. By literally reconfiguring the walls with curved ply, Kristensen continued her exploration of 2D images that play on illusion relative to 3D architectural space. I wondered if she was actively furthering the land art movement’s protests of the austerity of the gallery and commercialisation of art by bringing the work outside?

Kristensen stays interested in art by presenting ambiguous and suggestive images in a photorealistic vernacular to ensure the possibility of infinite questioning and conceptual locomotion. While her work is a means of translation and a kind of preservation, it’s also a forum for what your senses or mind may notice—in essence about mind travel. Experiencing her work activated a process within me. Only a part of what is perceived comes from the object through the senses, the surplus comes from within. As an indeterminate site, a temporary installation thematically linked to enigmatic phenomena, Indian Chamber was present on no absolute terms. It courted something beyond painting, beyond vision, beyond reality—something that escapes definition. Without limiting the means or destination, Kristensen acts as agent to set up key variables, through which we can choose to travel.

 

AK_Indian_Chamber7_1880pxAnna Kristensen, Indian Chamber (2011), oil on curved ply, 2.6m height, 11m circumference, 3.66m diameter, Photo: Silversalt photography. Images courtesy of the artist and Gallery 9.

AK_Indian_Chamber8_1880pxAnna Kristensen, Indian Chamber (2011), oil on curved ply, 2.6m height, 11m circumference, 3.66m diameter, Photo: Silversalt photography. Images courtesy of the artist and Gallery 9.

Gallery 9 and KALIMANRAWLINS represent Kristensen. Indian Chamber is part of the 2011 Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship Exhibition in October, 2011 at Artspace.

1. Pliny, Naturalis Historia, A.D 77-792
2. Deborah Jund, ‘Transient Spaces: Habitat of the Outcast’, accessed 10 September, 2011, http://www.shef.ac.uk/architecture/main/gallery/gal/diploma/theoryforum07/transientSpaces.html
3. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, James M. Edie, The primacy of perception: and other essays on phenomenological psychology, the philosophy of art, history and politics (Northwestern University Press, 1964), 166.

...


CONNECT WITH US

Search Runway