The Gallery of Everything presents THE DEEP: an exploration into the vocabulary of two of the most unusual non-verbal artists working in the contemporary sphere today.
Julian Martin and Terry Williams are longstanding members of Arts Project Australia. Their respective practices, nurtured at this ground-breaking Melbourne institution, evidence how atypical art-makers mesh seamlessly into the widest cultural circles.
Little else in the contemporary visual conveys still lives like the pastels of Julian Martin. The artist’s three-dimensional reductions are expressed through planes of continuous colour: a distinct format, seemingly unfussed by classical parameters of abstraction.
Martin’s distillation of everyday subjects is similarly refined. The borders are fixed, the detail denied. His approach speaks to the essentials of neuro-recognition. For despite an apparent (and personal) minimalism, Martin’s harmony of texture and depth draws us, as viewers, into what would otherwise be a private three-dimensional unseen.
The subject matter of Martin’s drawings - tools, letters, vehicles, people - spreads thick with the volume of pastel stick. The emotional messaging is contained in (and by) this vital ingredient. It lends his surfaces a sculptural affinity, recalling the blues of Yves Klein, whereby pigment powder is held to the paper by virtue only of layers beneath.
Terry Williams’ soft sculpture bears witness to its own inevitable collapse. Fabrics are bound, threaded and folded in awkward assembly. Commonplace items are replicated and upholstered. The resultant shapes - from ambiguous to haphazard - grant passers-by entry into an altered state, where the physical and the optical collide.
Squishiness itself is an unlikely revolutionary format. Yet for Williams, as for Louise Bourgeois, careful combinations of fabric and form lead to wry commentary. Solidity recedes and a superfluid narrative emerges; if the panoply of sagging houseflies, oceanographers and birthing mammals denies us insight, we can still grab or squeeze.
For Williams’ orchestra of figures and formations commands such a different dialect. As in the volumes of other studio artists, like the widely curated Judith Scott, this opus is clearly a meaningful something else. Whether theme or architecture decide Williams’ felts, velvets and silks, or whether, as the work suggests, it is on a first come first served basis, the artist’s empathy lies within his elegant mismatch. The rest is entirely up to us.
THE DEEP takes its inspiration from The Museum of Everything 4: a large-scale 2012 exhibition which examined the then misunderstood phenomenon of independent assisted studios for artists and makers with communication and/or learning disorders.
To understand this material better, the catalogue’s author suggested, we must consider it as another art world - unbothered by the noise and conditioning of the mainstream. It was a great invisible, like the vast under-ocean, with a distinct population and visual.
What makes Julian Martin and Terry Williams so timely is their total embrace of the self. THE DEEP unites them not only for their own physical proximity (they live and work in the same city), but because they embody the haptic spirit of profound artistic trust.
The work featured in THE DEEP comes from the artists and through the artists. It urges us to reject our pre-existing criteria and recognise the world as irreconcilably diverse.
The Gallery of Everything would like to thank Arts Project Australia and Sim Luttin for their help in producing this exhibition.