This essay by Geoff Levitus written on the occasion of the "Transformer: Field of Change" 1989 series of works touring Eastern Australia and currently (June to July 1990) showing at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery.  Another essay relating to regional arts practice by Michael Denlolm "Beyond Neglect and the Divide – Regional Australian Art", Periphery August 1996

When you are ready to return to the Library or another space in the gallery, please press the appropriate button below.


2d work3D buttonmachines buttoninstallationsVideo works burronlibrary buttonCV Wickshome page




Arthur Wicks - an  example  to
regional   artists.


Transformer: Field of change 1989 (show touring Eastern Australia, 1989-90)
exhibited at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery, June-July 1990


Gold Coast City Gallery, Sept 1990
Geoff Levitus

Regional galleries, unable to mount block-buster exhibitions because of limited resources, nevertheless serve their audiences by organising and hosting a continuous series of touring exhibitions that might otherwise not be seen in regional areas. One of the most fascinating of these is an exhibition of Arthur Wick's work entitled 'Transformer- Fields of Change'.

For regional artists, this show should be particularly interesting, as Wicks himself is a regional artist, living and working in Wagga Wagga. Although his art is obviously closely bound up with his natural environment, he is not slave to saleable depictions of it.
Rather, he questions the relationship of people to environment, our use of technology to gain control of natural forces, and ultimately our relationship to each other. However, these are the kind of interpretations you can reach after spending some time looking at the work, absorbing it, wondering at the titles' meanings, and finally gaining an idea of the exhibition's overall thematic concern.
If you knew nothing of Wick's work before, you will find yourself confronted with a group of strange wooden and fibreglass sculptures and a series of paintings, mostly mixed media works on paper. Some of these look like paintings of the sculptures, but all explore the same concerns on a two dimensional level.
These works, particularly the sculptures, are marked by a sense of the ridiculous and the absurd. Yet there is nothing frivolous about them. With obvious allusions to nature in terms of their organic shapes and references to shells, wings and webs, they are at the same time impossible machines, some having moving or revolving parts.

Those that move or seem to want to take off are either weighted down to the ground or frustrated by wheels that point in different directions. They also seem so fragile that they could easily disintegrate with one touch. In effect, they are explorations of transformations that can never be complete, and so despite their absurdity and evident humour, they also contain an element of tragedy.
Wick's theme of transformation becomes entwined with one of alienation. Possibilities exist but can never be realised.
This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that includes pictures of work from this show and others, three essays about Wick's work which are concise and refreshingly free of artspeak, and an illuminating piece recorded by Wicks out in the landscape. Well worth reading, this catalogue does not prescribe the interpretations that can be made of the work, as artists' statements so often do, but reinforces its potential for new associations that each viewer can make.
The essays point out the influence of Surrealism and particularly Dada on Wick's work, a tradition that has continued to invigorate art since the 1920s and 1930s, and was the central theme of the recent Sydney Biennale.

It does emerge that this exhibition is not a one-off show, but part of a continuing body of work that explores the same themes. Wicks is pictured trying to propel a wooden helicopter, rowing the skeleton of his "Survival Boat" on tram tracks in Melbourne and on railway tracks in Sydney.
 In other performance pieces, Wicks, dressed in suit and tie, has caked his head in mud, thus making his features mask-like and unmoving, and circulated through city crowds, engaging people in non-conversations by means of a tape recorder in his coat that emits meaningless banalities.
Through the absurdity of his behaviour and his equally absurd artworks, Wicks engages his audience, drawing an initial reaction of nervous laughter. The delayed reaction involves some realisation of his themes, communication that is far from perfect, relationships with each other and our environment that are also dislocated. Like the sculptures, our existence itself begins to seem ephemeral and fragile.

Wick's examination of these themes in a regional environment, his obvious ability as an artist across several media including perform­ance, his use of models from art history, should be a fine example to regional artists anywhere. It is unfortunate that videos of his performance works were not available to complement this exhibition, but the catalogue goes some way towards remedying this.


Geoff Levitus
"Periphery"  Issue No. 4 August 1990.  Lismore N.S.W.

to top of page