I wrote a piece about Kirsty Lillico’s show “This used to be the future” at Blindside in Melbourne earlier this year. The drawing I write about is called ‘Shroud’, Monoprint on paper 3400mm x 1500mm
You can find the show here – http://www.blindside.org.au/portfolio-item/11-28-mar-2015-this-used-to-be-the-future-kirsty-lillico/
Somehow the city belongs to us
I am an artist, and a person who is fascinated by marks which are created and left in the world. The ones that the rain makes, the ones that birds leave; drips and spills and mistakes and stains. Where I wait to cross the road with my bike there are oil spills on the pavement. Over and over from engines overworked engines make tiny drips as they strain to stop. These records of living in built space are written all over its collective body. I admire them, and wonder how I can recreate them; about the level of repetition and work which it would require to build up these surfaces. I’m a drawer; I’m obsessed with surfaces.
Surface / skin / tactility / subjective response.
Sometimes I think that the job of the artist is to notice things. To cut them out, put them in new contexts, and make us look at them. Georges Perec writes in ‘Species of Spaces’ that if we want to keep seeing a painting in our home, we must keep moving it around so that we do not become inured to it. It’s there all the time – we don’t see it any more. Lillico has made it her project to bring us close to this particular architecture. Through their surfaces, she offers us a human version, an invitation to witness her touching them – to remember that they are bodies too. She has cast concrete, drawn, rubbed and built in order to bring us closer. She takes the monumental scale and fits it in boxes, able to be sent, able to to approached, to remind us that the monumental is also stacked, balanced, built by hands.
I am interested in the difference between thought and bodily work. Thought takes a flash – to imagine a building, to plan, takes time and effort, but it’s not like building it. To know a material intellectually is not like knowing it through your hands and body. It doesn’t behave. The concrete is harder, heavier, sloppier than you thought. It takes more water, more effort, more stomach muscles to lift. How do the dreams of an architect relate to the back of a builder? Materials challenge the detached mind because they exist in the material world, with their properties which change in response to you and your body. How much can you lift? How long can you keep going? Things don’t work out how you thought.
I work in the studio oposite Lillico’s, and I have watched her think, plan and build through using materials. Building different versions of boxes, finding out through doing, engaging, what works, where the mirrors are which reflect her building s and make them anew. Lillico collects, cuts, and remakes. She creates a fine balance between the regular grid and the accidental, and at this intersection, the human touch is. To represent concrete, she uses materials instead which yield; to touch, to the elements. Materials she can lift, manipulate. Most of us will never build a building, but we can approach them. Lillico builds her city using paper and cardboard. Paper which when wet, is fragile, permeable. Cardboard which is used to carry and contain, then left as a discarded material in stacks and piles, in scraps which blow around our cities. Lillico takes these material and intensely explores their qualities. The paper absorbs water, so she lets it do so. Cardboard rips, and stacks, and is made into boxes. And so she does so. Her buildings fit into boxes, are boxes, were boxes. The ribs which create the lines and marks in her large scale drawing are an integral part of the material. The ribs which give cardboard strength and structure reflect the ribbing which was used to cover up the unavoidable imperfections in the concrete buildings. Here the imperfections are magnified and offered to us as a form of drawing. Recreated through a new material, we get to see them.
Somehow the city belongs to us, and we are allowed to touch it, to reach out to it. Lillico draws us close. She says look, at this distance; with the surface right up to your face. This is a small, subjective, personal touching. And yet it opens out the route back to the buildings, to notice for ourselves. It suggests other ways of engaging.
By using these other materials, she reminds us that concrete is not an implacable material. It contains stains, lumps, and holes where the air gets in. Darkenings which occur no matter how carefully you pour it. By looking and feeling, sensitively and carefully through another material, Lillico shows us those marks, and the beauty in them. We recognise the sensitivity in the shift in marks, their weight, the pressure, the release of the printing ink. We recognise the body which has made these marks; it’s effect on the materials placed between effort and mark. They remind me of when an image is repeatedly fed through a photocopier, and it distintegrates gradually from it’s original form. The delight in this is that of the abstractionist; the one who loves to find other relationships in that which is removed from the figurative. The one who plays with processes to see what emerges from accident; repetition and trials. In Lillico’s project, ribs become rubs; a most physical and intimate of actions. I remember being instructed to make rubbings of headstones as a child in graveyards for some school project, and being so much more interested in them than the information I could read on them. I guess the information is already in the world, found out, written down. Whereas the rubbing is like a kind of secret; something which you only find out if you press your body close and ask it how it responds. Always in unexpected ways.