This is an essay by Rosemary Adam published in the booklet Transformer – Fields of Change; Arthur Wicks 1989
Other essays in the same booklet by David Hansen, Arthur Wicks "Thoughts from Wilgie Mia" (transcript from a tape for ARX 87 performance in Perth) and Tony Bond AM are accessible.

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                                    "I am a part of all that I have met;
                                    Yet experience is an arch wherethro',
                                    Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
                                    For ever and for ever when I move."
                                                                                    - Tennyson, Ellipses

Arthur Wicks's is a total art.  The structures and works on paper assembled here are an extension of precious works and performances which constitute both a personal odyssey and a quixotic tilting at society's windmills.  There is sensed a romantic longing to embrace the world, to be an explorer like Columbus, or build a beacon on the seashore against his return (Cone for Almada, Portugal 1983).

The drawings, in clay and charcoal, represent imaginary contraptions in various stages of disintegration, loosely related to the sculptures.  These are human-scale  fashioned from decayed, split wattle, carved pine, found objects and epoxy resin, partially stained with oil paint to seaside tints of marine blue, yellow, scarlet and faded pink.  There are immediate analogies between natural forms and artefacts: fins, vertebrae, wings, arrows, sails, coracles, markers, totem-poles.  Wicks calls his creations Transformers, a name that suggests both electrical energy and shape-shifting.  with patient viewing and experiment (some are mobile), the enigmatic objects can set off poetic associations and visions of 'a dreamtime space' in which anything is possible.

As J.R.R. Tolkein once said, it is necessary to suspend belief in order to cross the boundary between the natural and supernatural worlds.  The shoreline, like the twilight, is such a zone.  Here the skeletons of birds, boats and fish mingle with broken shells and driftwood: sea-wrack left by the tide and slowly metamorphosed.  The artist as shaman speeds up the process by means of an energising ritual: he aims to harness elemental forces - water, air, fire or earth - through 'Transformers' that may be faulty, or obsolete, or grounded.  Like Daedalus and Icarus, and the mad scientist, he risks hubris, the sim of pride which brings down the retribution of the gods.  Do the absurd machines go round in circles getting nowhere, or lean crazily askew, like the mournful detritus on an abandoned nuclear test-site.

But transformation is also entertainment, a pantomime - trick not to be taken too seriously.  with one stroke of Harlequin's magic wand, the knockabout comedy begins: that spiral shell becomes a witch's hat, another a dunce's cap for the artist (Tranformer 2 - Obsolete machine;  Transformer 5 - Self-Portrait and Target).  The dead albatross flaps its wings again (Transformer 1 - with Payload) and the air   boat (Transformer 3) goes into orbit.  When the spell is broken, everything returns to its former shape.

Arthur Wicks's structures are lightly moored to earth.  If they symbolise the vanity of human endeavour, they also reflect a puckish sense of humour.  The hero's quest is timeless, but the vehicles themselves are ephemeral: gesture is all.

Rosemary Adam
Art Centre, Charles Sturt University,  1989



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