This essay written by David Hansen for my contribution to the 8th Sydney Biennale in 1990. My contribution was the secret landing strip 1986 where the lighting pulsed from 0 to full and back again giving the sense of the passage of a 24 hour day.

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Hansen essay for Sydney Biennale 1990


"X" Marks the Spot


The metropolis is protected from entropy by a sheath of concrete, plastic and continuous redevelopment, but in the country organic and climatic forces are visibly at work: hay bales sprout green, dead logs grow fungus, wooden buildings silver and splinter, fence posts split and sag.

The unavoidable decay of country life can only be dealt with be casual optimism: "She'll  be right, mate".  This attitude finds concrete expression in a remarkable assemblage of "making do" repairs and recyclings, from kerosene-tin chests of draws to rusted car fenders  patched with corrugated iron, everything ties together with baling wire in a kind of regional Enigma of Isadore Ducasse. 

Arthur Wicks lives in the country city of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, and his sculptural assemblages are clearly "from the sticks".

In Secret Landing Strip (1988), the dancing verticals are ringbarked trees, or the animal bones found in the paddocks, while its painted backdrop and table top suggests the shadows of the bush, eroding stock tracks, river systems. 

Wicks' thin, rickety constructions of unco-ordinated found objects can even stand (shakily) as metaphors for the predicaments of rural Australia, for the fragile ecology of a greatly distubed environment, for the precarious economics of primary production.

Against this subtopian, primitive, bush furniture tradition, the artist posits "the other other operation". the information overload of his self-proclaimed mission as alchemist of the technological age.

The St. Andrew's Cross which dominates Secret Landing Strip and Solstice Altar-piece (1986) is at the one level purely autotelic, the signature mark of an illiterate, but it also represents the metropolitan realities of airport runway and  city street intersections and, further implies cultural markers such as Vitruvian man, a kiss, crucifixion, deletion, sex chromosomes, multiplication and the Roman numeral ten.

Yet finally, ironically, all this weight of signification only serves to reinforce ultimate metaphysical mystery. "X" is the unknown.  Like the arcane theories and experiments of alchemist, physicist or mathematician, the painted auras and electric lights around and over the Secret Landing Strip crosses provide no real illumination, highlighting the question, not the answer.

There is no answer, there is no philosopher's stone; there is only the philosopher, Mr. X, the artist.



David Hansen, 1989

"Art is Easy" Catalogue of the 8th Sydney Biennale1990,  pp272, 273


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