Arts & entertainment
Herald Sun, Wednesday.
May 7, 1997.

A show full of suspense

You wouldn't read about it: a dictionary, opened to the page on gravity, hovers in mid-air in a room mapped out with a grid.

Defying Gravity
Ian de Gruchy

Linden Gallery until May 11
Reviewer: Anne Marsh

DEFYING Gravity is a witty mixed-media installation which plays on the concept of gravity by creating a virtual space with slide projections. The room is mapped out with an architectural grid which heightens the sense of perspective for the viewer. A huge dictionary hovers in mid-air as if it is about to flap into motion There's an aeronautic suspense about the book itself - an alien rationality that mirrors the perspective grid. But de Gruchy's aim is not to underline the theses of the Enlightenment or to pay homage to Alberti. As a photographer, de Gruchy has always been a trickster. His giant City Projections have operated like vigilante images across skylines in Melbourne, Brisbane and New York. He's a contemporary artist keen on the magic of photography. The idea that photography is a kind of light writing resonates throughout de Gruchy's work. He's become a kind of urban magician over the years, transforming mundane spaces with his theatrical illusions created with computer-driven projections. Of course the idea that photography is light writing was discovered with the invention of photography in the 19th century. William Henry Fox Talbot called his photographs "sun pictures" drawn with "the pencil of nature".

Ian de Gruchy dispenses with the 19th century homage to nature by underlining the mechanical-cum-digital means of production. There is no sunshine in de Gruchy's chamber, all the fight is manifested artificially.

The virtual aspects of Defying Gravity are complemented with real objects floating in space. Newton's apple falling from the tree, used by the scientist to demonstrate gravity, recurs throughout the space. There is a sweet smell of fruit which wafts through the air as the viewer peers into the room.

The dictionary, opened to the page on gravity, also lists graphic, graphology and graven image. It's a clever twist since the chance inclusion of "graven image" seems to encapsulate the illusionary construction in the room. It's there but it's not there. Our senses get confused at the same time as our minds become enchanted.

There is definitely a sense of wizardry in the installation. But it is an art practice committed to experimentation and public access.

Anne Marsh lectures in Visual Art at Monash University.


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