Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Jack Randell

by Nick Garner

18 Aug 2010

Jack Randell's show, This Way, (August 12-24 Gaffa Gallery, Sydney) plots a course through the outback that in its memory-like layering of signs and images locates points of departure in a journey rather than arrival. The show is comprised of a series of square paintings of roadside signs and a video work of projected images on a woman's torso.

Within each work individually and between the works in the series there is a syncopation between the key images: the background, the sign and that which is projected onto them. The point of departure from the signs and the immediate 'Australian-ness' is into a projected narrative, an accelerated reality that draws on the idea of the journey as both subject and process.

The very nuts-and-bolts of Randell's images are taken from driving long distances alone and at high-speeds through the country. We can elaborate here ideas of the artist driving, seeing signs having thoughts and painting that memory. It's a suitably simple explanation and it ties itself to what Randell describes as the 'randomness of images, the inconsequence, that's how life rolls out. Sometimes there's meaning and sometimes not, or there is but we just don't see it.'

Djon Mundine takes us a little further than this explanation through the term 'vernacular landscape'. The works engage with a set of complex cultural arrangements that, seemingly so easily read, have the inaudible dog-whistles of a far deeper narrative than that of a No Frill's black pepper box layered on a train-crossing sign (Black Pepper 2010, acrylic polymers on board, 60x60cm). It speaks of a post- colonial environment and the task of identifying the artist's 'affinity with this place' when travelling through it. He says it's a different affinity to an Indigenous sense of place or to a tourist's, having seen this for the first time. As Jack describes a working class country upbringing in Dubbo and returning to indigenous communities as an artist and teacher, through the big rolling skies and tremendous scenery, 'your mind going to incredible places' I get an insight into the artist that rhymes with the perhaps naff aphorism 'we are all tourists or visitors', somewhere to some extent no matter how many times you've worn the track.

The journey through 'this place', through the animal, earthy bacchanal of scrubby bush and thundering clouds sits both with and against the simple geometry of the signs seen along the way. The rhyme here is not of a naff aphorism but an ongoing process, an expedition into one's self and the place they inhabit, and the people that remain in this land.