Recent works by Andrea Sinclair
Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston Street Abbotsford.
Closed April 3.
THE POOL. Summer. When I was nine, Richard Hall was the luckiest kid around, because he lived only two streets away from the newest, most spectacular public pool in the district. A monument to a dead prime minister cast in brutal concrete met the eye of passers-by, but the lucky ones, those destined to enter, were met with not one or two but five pools, indoor and outdoor, including the most spectacular diving pool with a three-level tower that must have been five hundred feet high (or so it seemed to my young, astonished eyes) and so deep you couldn’t make out the tiles on the bottom – the water therein a mysterious, rich ultramarine that was enticing, wondrous and scary, all at once.
The pool was often crowded and you had to brave the hot cement of the pool surround (YOU there, NO running) to actually reach the cool, clear, liquid sanctuary, but the stunning relief from the heat and the challenge of the deep end more than made up for any brief inconvenience. If you were lucky and had 50 cents tied in a knot at one corner of your towel, an after-swim sugar feast of cocktail fruits, musk sticks, sherbet bombs, red frogs and a Sunnyboy beckoned from the kiosk. There wasn’t much left wanting at the pool for a nine-year old.
Swim, Andrea Sinclair‘ s current exhibition at Tacit Contemporary Art evokes these memories. The excitement of unsupervised freedom, the cool of the water, the end-of-day satisfaction of a day’s entertainment well played, the mystery and the sheer enjoyment of it all, is contained in this suite of 14 works.
Sinclair has crafted a distinctive style of portraiture and garnered a deserved following through regularly exhibiting in group and prize invitationals over the last eight years in Melbourne. Her visual language, composition and palette combine to turn the shaded and hazy images of the mind’s eye into solid objects. These images are dancing sprites in front of your eyes – they speak of the heat of summer, the spirit of those who are young (and young at heart) and the enjoyment of the subjects they portray as they go about their day of fun and relaxation.
Sinclair uses large flat planes to frame her central subjects. In many ways this is a common device for precise portraiture – but in this series, Sinclair doesn’t create a group of classic three-quarter length views of her ‘sitters’ – precious few of these subjects would sit still for more than 30 seconds, or so it seems. These images have a quality more akin to photojournalism – they are a snapshot in time, a blur of action and a little bit of the voyeur. The tight composition, gestural references to moving hands, turned faces and jumping feet and abstract passages of layered wash and gouache amplify this impression.
While the subjects are clearly enjoying themselves, sometimes there’s a suggestion that all is not perfect at the pool. Shadows, for instance, become characters of their own and hover like spectres behind the main subject. This lends an air of unworldliness, a dreamlike quality to the pictures and in some cases outright menace that creates an edgier feel and provokes the viewer to think beyond the surface of what they see on the wall and ask questions about who these people really are. These images tell you a lot about their subject and about humans in general, what we find enjoyable, our sometimes love/hate relationship with water and the white heat of summer, our behaviour in public places when we’re relaxed and our guard somewhat lowered.
But they don’t tell you everything; Sinclair’s pictures let you know that there’s more that you don’t know and that those hidden and mysterious unknowns might surprise – even shock – you. That’s a good sign – this artist is on to something worthwhile, she reminds us that there’s more to life than what we see. And, that remembering provides meaning to our lives. If we lived each day and forgot the last, we wouldn’t feel – we wouldn’t know love, joy, achievement and fulfilment, the emotions expressed in these images; the ones that motivate us to get up each morning and live.