Moving Imagery : review : Canberra Times

Savour a Sensual Seduction

Reviewer: Sasha Grishin

Born in Bangkok, Kate Mahoney is the daughter of an Australian diplomat and spent many of her formative years in Canberra, where she studied at the ANU completing a degree in Arts and Law and majoring in art history.

She subsequently travelled abroad and spent 20 years living in New York, where she practiced law and established herself as an artist exhibiting at the Dillon Gallery in Chelsea, New York, and also in Italy, where she had spent quite a bit of time studying and practicing the ancient techniques of fresco painting. Now with two young children, she has decided to return with her family to Australia to re-establish her life and art career in this country.

Although she has exhibited in Australia before, Moving Imagery is her major debut exhibition through which this artist is presenting her credentials to the Australian art scene.

Mountain Air #3, top, and 2.5 Dimensional Composition #4, above, are part of Kaye Mahoney’s major debut exhibition in Australia.

It is a very impressive and sophisticated exhibition, but one which seems to tug in two separate directions. The work is very sophisticated, very refined, yet built around an apparent paradox. It is complex, but at the same time elemental; it is beautifully crafted, but also embraces chance and chaos; in her art there is structure and discipline, but simultaneously a surrender to systems, chance operations and arbitrary numerology.

Aesthetically the work is seductive, for example in the 2.5 Dimensional Composition #4, colour is lyrical and when applied to layers of Plexiglas, the effect is slippery and watery, creating a fluid sensation. Then we are confronted with something quite cerebral like An Arrangement of Notes, or Dada by Word, both made this year. One strand of her art pulls towards the lyrical, musical and a personal sense of the romantic, the other is cerebral, tough and confronting and is pushing in the direction of minimalism, Fluxus and Dada. Despite all of this diversity, this is not a retrospective exhibition and all of the works on show here have been completed over the last four years.

While not wishing to draw sweeping conclusions from cursory observations, Mahoney’s work seems to pull in at least a couple of quite distinct directions. One is the intuitive, sensuous and earthy or gritty direction – her hands-on tendency with frescos and the like, one which combines the ethereal music of Erik Satie with the whole synaesthesia idea of painted sound. There are also the minimal and spiritual aspects of her art drawing on Kazimir Malevich, Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin, where the voice of the materials is allowed to be heard and there is that beautiful heightened sensibility. The other orientation in Mahoney’s art can come under the general heading of Fluxus. Although Fluxus did not make itself felt in Australia in a major way, its influence has been pervasive. Fluxus is a form of intermedia which grew out of John Cage’s experimental music and in the early 1960s Fluxus was promoted by the Lithuanian-born artist George Maciunas as an international cultural development. Chance operations coupled with a “go with the flow” mentality, a bit like Dada and conceptual art before it, Fluxus wanted to break with the market-driven art conventions and endorsed a mentality where bricolage was valued above that which was carefully crafted and uiniqueness was not deemed a virtue, but instead there was the use of ‘ready mades’ and multiples. All of this features in Mahoney’s art practice.

Performance and improvisation were the keys to Fluxus, where artists, including Nam June Paik, Yoko One, Joseph Beuys and Ken Friedman, experimented with “musicality” and worked from a score. Unlike the elaborate “happenings”, Fluxus performances were usually simpler, but memorable and often incorporated a disparate range of materials, including collage, sound art, music, video and poetry, all of which are found in Mahoney’s work, especially in such pieces as An Arrangement of Notes and Elemental Arrangement.

Although Mahoney cites Jean Dupuy and Allison Knowles, two of the veterans on the New York Fluxus art scene, amongst her friends, she has been cloned by neither. She appears to embrace the ideas of Fluxus and Cage and the general ideas of blending different artistic media and disciplines, especially combining the visual arts and music, but she is also receptive to gutsy expressionism and the sensuous seduction of colour.

She calls her exhibition Moving Imagery and I think we can interpret the word “moving” in all three meanings. The show has a kinetic quality, paintings including Riverline Pause, the dimensional compositions, Mountain Air, An Arrangement of Notes and the triptychs, they all involve the notion of movement in a physical sense. Then of course there is the quality of a “moving experience”, she creates spiritually and emotionally charged works, the more time you spend with them, the greater the rewards. Finally they are “moving” from one state to another, the notion of transformation, metamorphosis plus the whole idea of moving on. Moving back home from the Big Apple, moving on in her art and moving between different art movements.

Mahoney has emerged as a young and vibrant artist who is worthy of serious attention.

[see original article in print]