There’s this round table at my parents’ house that has been there for a long time now. It’s white and circular in shape with a wooden underlay and a sturdy metal leg right in the middle. Though simple, it’s one of those pieces of furniture that comes to mind easily for me. On birthdays, the rolling chorus of mariachis singing Las Mañanitas would fill the air, kettle bubbling alongside, and the white table now adorned with a feast suitable for the special occasion. As a first-generation Australian born and raised in a migrant family, owning a piece of furniture was a symbol of stability: it is one of only a few items that always reminds me of home.
No matter the situation, be it confrontational, celebratory, or mundane, the round table has been a consistent presence throughout my family history. I was sitting at that table when my sister Raquel told our family she was pregnant. I remember everything from that night: my Dad was sitting at his usual comfortable spot, my nephews running around him in a chaotic pre-sugar rush high. I could feel my excitement growing as I eagerly watched over my mum prepping my favourite meal of pupusas, a traditional snack from El Salvador that always elevates my cultural pride. We gathered with anticipation around the table. From the moment we heard Raquel say those two magical words, my jaw dropped as our collective initial disbelief transformed into joy and utter bliss. As the heart of our kitchen, you could say that this table forms a tapestry of the history of my family’s life, of all the good and the bad.
I was reminded of this round table when I first saw Olivia Biasin’s art work at DADAA Fremantle’s Gallery as part of the exhibition In Record Time. An assemblage of collation and contemplation replicates a functioning computer desk, meticulously organised with sketchbooks and various art equipment, it is laid out in a way which mimics the artist’s own home. Milk crates configured around the desk further create the atmosphere of a workable space. A neat arrangement of polaroids surrounding the desk give the viewer an insight into the life that this furniture has had – alternately one of chaotic creative mess or precise tidiness, at the will of its owner. In each image Olivia deliberately positions the camera in the exact same spot to record the working life of the desk, and by extension, her. Their arrangement is not linear, but rather they move back and forwards in time, painting the idea of an ongoing process. Despite their volume, not one is a repeat. Each frame captures a distinct moment in Olivia’s life – from the mundane to the personal and vulnerable artistic struggle. Yet one thing remains constant throughout: the desk. Olivia’s equivalent to my family’s round table.
Standing in front of her work, I imagine Olivia sitting by this desk spending hour upon hour labouring over concept designs for her art installations. Blunt pencils are scattered around the place, while eraser smudges and scrunched up paper perhaps signal a failure in execution. Hands aching and blistered, she literally carries her work as a maker between them. Speaking as a fellow artist, I can understand the relentless pursuit of artistic enlightenment. And I doubt that I am the only one.
Clare Peake’s pottery is a patient craft with no single pot being the same in design, structure, or character. Even just looking at her work, you get a strong sense of the labour intensive process of her craft: from the building to the drying to the painting and to drying again. The sheer volume of Clare’s work speaks to her level of commitment to seeing her project through.
This perseverance is also evident in Rocky Lu’s drawings of buildings, whose intricate attention to precision, shape, tone, and colour, create an undeniable sense of stamina with each work taking up to several days to complete. Yet standing in front of them, you don’t get any impression of fatigue from the artist. His drawings are free from indentation, pressure or other blemishes.
In stark contrast, knocking into my ankles with obnoxious persistence, Bjoern Rainer Adamson’s robot, with its insidious recorded narration, serves as a constant and daunting reminder that the expectation to justify and quantify your practice as an artist is lurking just around the corner. Together, they are a collection of personal reflections around practice and process which each share a memory and perspective of the passage of time.
Lastly, we can’t really talk about the labour that is evident in In Record Time without addressing Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowt’s dedication to his practice. Roch’s work invokes a discipline and a respect for the rituals that have been carried out by him on a daily basis for the last 10 years. I have fond memories of passing Roch in the DADAA halls: in his usual spot, labouring away with his set of pencils and textas. I didn’t really have a full grasp of what his work entailed until I saw it all displayed here in the gallery space. A prolific body of work, Roch’s art represents a clear and purposeful practice, based around an idiosyncratic set of rules and patterns of working. I know that I speak for everyone at DADAA who knew Roch when I say that his spirit as a colourful, focused, and concise artist lives on in this body of work.
Art is something that takes time to evolve: from the first inception of an idea to its resolution, it is time that shapes a work, together with constant patience and commitment. In Record Time represents the practice of art in both its full glory and in its slow monotonous slug. More than just something audacious to look at, the process of art embodies our stories and our souls and how we share these with one another. Whether it be a sentimental family table, or a work of art, our memories and our stories are built into the objects in our lives. In loving memory of Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowt, In Record Time is the ultimate analogy for why you can’t rush art.
images: (below) Roch Dziewialtowski-Gintowt, untitled, series c2010 – 2020, pencil and pastel on paper, 30 x 21 cm (each), photo: Pixel Poetry, 2020 | (top) Olivia Biasin, An assemblage of collation and contemplation (detail), 2020, dimensions variable, photo: Pixel Poetry, 2020