But Is It Art? — 7 to 29 November 2003

Sculptural Situations by Gail Hastings

Opened by Roger Benjamin,
Professor of Art History & Visual Culture University of Sydney


Gail Hastings's Sculptural Situations overlays the everyday with an alternative modelled on espionage, detective and art fictions. Her softened watercolour, canvas and object arrangements create 'architectural follies' that entice us into their plans, diagrams and cryptic evidence. At the scene of the crime, everything is primed or poised for meaning. It's an environment of suspicion and duplicity.

It is by this somewhat whimsical engagement that the work activates the everyday. This is what makes Hastings's art practice so clever; nothing fits categorically into one frame of reference: the chair upon which we sit may suddenly become a clue.

On entering the gallery space a freestanding structure is detected: 'to enter, to leave (no. 2)'. This work incorporates a desk and shelves that form a 'missing picture', perhaps the one so desperately sought by a pair of private eyes, characters in the work. Here, we can pause to peruse a curator's selection of art books, a response to the work, before confronting the Big Question posed in the series of works adjacent: 'But is it art?'



02Hastings_7th.jpg 03Hastings_12th.jpg    
Gail Hastings 'But is it Art' 2003
Gail Hastings 'But is it Art' 2003
Gail Hastings 'But is it Art' 2003

Meanwhile, in the series entitled 'primed' we survey the paths taken by five Secret Intelligence Officers en route to decide what will be painted on the preceding, blank canvas. And then there's The Big Cover-Up. Is this a work about a conspiracy to withhold, in our Age of Lies (Bush, Blair, Howard)? Is a covered artwork the truth?

Hastings's work updates the Minimal Art project by not only urging the viewer to participate in the perception of art, but adds the mumbling background of the everyday by linking the world of objects with our social and political experience.

Gail Hastings's solo museum shows include Plans at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne (2003) and art idea no. 8,582,048 at the Bahnwäterhaus, Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, Germany (1999). This year, her work was included in the DaimlerCrysler Collection at the ZKM, Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe. Regarded as one of the most important German corporate collections, this survey included representatives of the avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s placed next to younger artists. In 2002, Hastings's work was also included in Kunst Nach Kunst an international group exhibition at the Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen.

Hastings was born in Perth and currently lives and works in Sydney. This is her first solo show in Sydney since exhibiting at Artspace in 1996 and in the inaugural Primavera exhibition at the MCA in 1992.


The Cross Art + Books:
Gail Hastings, Bahnwarterhaus Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, 1999, 96 pp.
George Alexander, essay, 'But is it art? Sculptural Situations by Gail Hastings', November 2003, 2 pp.
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