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AGA I NST THE TID E

D AV I D 4 F e b r u a r y – 4 M a r c h 2 0 11


David Marsden’s latest exhibition Against the Tide is a true retrospective. It does not merely present a survey of the last three decades of his work, but articulates it in a way that reflects his approach to production. Resembling a patchwork, the dynamic wall hanging echoes Marden’s interest in collage and the mixing of media. It exists as a testament to the fundamental processes of making, every piece projecting a sense of having been physically worked. Materials and techniques can be seen to reappear throughout the thirty years, showing an interesting and open relationship between the artist, his style and what he has on hand. 2


into motion a kind of logic that can be identified throughout the body of work. The recurrence of these busy forms suggests a developed preoccupation with mark making, a founding prerequisite of the drawing process. As Jeff Malpas comments on the fundamentals of drawing:

Every line begins at one point and takes us to some other point, and is drawn by the hand; the line is, therefore, an image of movement created through movement. The drawing itself begins in the line… and the line is both that which forms the basis of the drawing, and also that through which the act of drawing occurs.3 When considered in this light, Marsden’s general

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program of making comes to physically situate the artist’s body and actions within his overall practice. All his pieces project a sense of being worked by the artist, articulating a physicality that refers to a greater process of adding, scratching and cutting back. The print Untitled

no. 25, 1992, celebrates such an aesthetic typical

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n 1980 David Marsden and his wife Penny Mason moved to Flinders Island. It was a move which Marsden has since identified as a formative stage in his development as a mature artist. Coming from post-graduate studies at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, it would have marked a significant change in lifestyle and surroundings.

Flinders was a very strong influence, perhaps the time when I really became aware of what I was doing – maybe [my work] was just about immediate experience before – that I was just a spectator in the landscape.1 For a period of two and a half years he worked in relative isolation, the product of which is on display at the entrance to the exhibition. I see these early works as physical responses to the idea of place, specifically the Flinders landscape. It is obviously an experience that he has carried throughout his career, for works as recent as

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Franklin Sound, 2009, still allude quite literally to locations on the island. What is particularly fascinating about Marsden’s fixation with these experiences, is that they solidify the emergence of the geographical in his work. The notion of place as inseparable from the self brings to mind Casper David Frederich’s ‘bodily eye’ and the romantic concept of memory and experience as an avenue to truth and the sublime.2 Moving from Melbourne to Memana, working on a fishing boat and painting in a woolshed embodies the spirit of this thought. The idea of removing oneself from the foggy conditioning of urban life to forge a new language with the physical landscape. From this period we also see drawing as a key component in his work. In Untitled no. 5, 1980, and Untitled no. 9, 1983, pastel colours are used to fill in vigorous and chaotic marks, drawn across the entire picture plane. They do not situate drawing as a drafting process for the development of larger paintings, but embrace the action of drawing as an endeavour in-itself. These earlier works set

of woodblock printing, where the chiselling of the wood transfers into a network of hatched lines. The ochre pigment illuminates the chaotic axes in negative, only to be counterbalanced by a layering of laboured black shapes. In the middle we find a framed tool, maybe nails or a pair of scissors. The relationship between tools and the mark come together quite literally in this piece, as elements that are suggestive of the creative action over and above a refined end product. To me this expresses a dedication to the fundamental process of making, inextricably linked to Malpas’ definition of the line.

Untitled no. 25, 1992, presents us with a tactile style which freely passes into different mediums throughout the collection. Such an approach could also be identified as haptic. By haptic I mean a loose and intuitive attitude to making, to work automatically and without the burden of formulated preconception. Gilles Deleuze identifies the haptic as a space where:

The form is no longer essence but becomes accident. The accident opens up a space between two planes… It is a frenetic zone in which the hand is no longer guided by the eye and is forced upon sight like another will, which appears as chance, accident, automatism, or the involuntary.4 This is a program that proves extremely attractive to the abstract artist. It becomes a valve to inner expressions and occurrences not otherwise achievable, in turn allowing for the development of projections and sensations that could almost be thought of as existing separate from language. Historically, this program has led the abstract artist down a Greenbergian search for purity in medium. Whereby:

Each art would be rendered “pure,” and in its “purity” find the guarantee of its standards of quality as well as of its independence.5 However while Marsden employs the haptic approach to making, his explorations into pictorial abstraction negate this end. In a comical way he usurps the conventions of Modern abstraction through an indifference to medium, sliding from one to the other and back again. The work is not totally self-reflexive, but playfully disrupts many traditional characteristics of abstract art. The emergence of bowls as a sculptural element in the pieces from the 1990s onward marks another divergence from this ideal. In Franklin Sounds, 2008, each flank of the triptych presents a perched bowl. Maybe drawn from ceramics and earlier experiments, the bowls offer a subtle disruption of the painting’s plane. Instead of self-reflexive purity we are presented with sculptural painting. We become drawn into the busy surface only to find hints of figuration and subtle depth. While the left panel has the light and spacious feel of a sky dominated landscape, the remainder of the painting presents an intensity of colour and action. When examined closely, strange shapes and objects appear in the mind’s eye challenging the audience to salvage bits and pieces for the construction of their own unique narrative.

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The three decades of work in this retrospective encapsulate the labours of an inventive and persistent practitioner. He has remained true to a system of production which shapes his body of work into one that embodies a sense of rhythm. It shows his ability to establish a rudimentary mode of working based in printmaking and akin to the fundamental action of drawing. Marsden floats freely between mediums as an artist who has a seemingly inexhaustible drive to make with what he has at hand. Throughout the thirty years materials, techniques and references to places such as Flinders Island seem to emerge and recur as elements supporting an ongoing practice. There is a truth to this exhibition that emerges in part from each and every piece – it says: this is who I am and this is what I do.

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In many ways this places the work in a middle ground between pure abstraction and the figurative. It is this middle ground that gives the exhibition a sense of divergence. The images are ambiguous and enticing to the imagination, they are violent yet peaceful, they are both abstract and referential. The work need not exist as one or the other, for it is the very fact that it can simultaneously operate in two opposing ways that most intrigues me about this collection.

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‘I’m aware of the tenets of abstraction, but it’s quite fun to have those little things – It’s funny how things evolve into other things and develop into a new frame of reference and perhaps a little story.’ 6

MARS D EN

Untitled no. 52, 2010, is an exemplar of this disruption. Although the plane is not broken by a sculptural element, this painting reveals snippets of depth that excite the imagination. For some maybe the vague impression of a room and window emerge from the mid right of the composition. The inclusion of a small printed monotone cup reminiscent of a Pop art aesthetic, humorously domesticates the scene and activates the audience to find more distorted objects and defined spaces. This fracturing of the pictorial plane brings the characteristically formal elements of this abstract work crashing down like a house of cards, revealing a network of extensions and forms. When asked about these slight spatial fragments Marsden replies:

43 Shell Game, 2006 Oil on canvas and bamboo tray, 52 x 62cm

1. Discussion with the artist, December 2010. 2. C  heetham, M. A. The Rhetoric of Purity: Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting, Cambridge [Cambridge University Press, 1991], p. 5. See for a discussion of the relationship between early the European painterly abstraction of Gauguin and both the Neo-platonic and Romantic interest in memory as a mode of reversion to an inner-vision. 3. M  alpas, J. Building on the Line: Topography in the Practice of Architecture, in Terroir: Cosmopolitan Ground, Sydney [DAB Documents University of Sydney, 2007], p. 58. 4. Deleuze, G. Francis Bacon: the Logic of Sensation, translated with introduction by Daniel W. Smith, Minneapolis [University of Minnesota Press, 1981], p. 127. 5. Cheetham, M. A. The Rhetoric of Purity: Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting, Cambridge [Cambridge University Press, 1991], p. 117. 6. Discussion with the artist, January 2011.

Will Heathcote 2011 5 Untitled, 1980 Watercolour, pastel, pencil and gouche on paper, 23.5 x28cm

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1 Untitled, 1983 Oil and charcoal on canvas, 152 x 206cm

3 Untitled, 1983 Oil and charcoal on canvas, 129 x 205.4cm

Flinders was a very strong influence, perhaps the time when I really became aware of what I was doing – maybe [my work] was just about immediate experience before – that I was just a spectator in the landscape. Will Heathcote - Discussion with the artist, December 2010.

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11 Watermelon, 1980-82 Oil and charcoal on canvas, 30.5 x 40.5cm

19 Blasted Westerly, 1985 Three colour woodcut, 32.5 x 51cm

17 Untitled, 1990 Oil and acrylic on two canvas panels, 153.5 x 115.3cm

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25 Untitled, 1990 Four colour woodcut, 75.5 x 100cm

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52 Untitled, 1990 Oil on canvas, 111 x 152cm

45 Franklin Sounds, 2006 Oil on three panels (two wood, centre canvas), includes two recessed bamboo bowls, 106 x 167cm

Every line begins at one point and takes us to some other point, and is drawn by the hand; the line is, therefore, an image of movement created through movement. The drawing itself begins in the line… and the line is both that which forms the basis of the drawing, and also that through which the act of drawing occurs. Malpas, J. ‘Building on the Line: Topography in the Practice of Architecture’, in Terroir: Cosmopolitan Ground, Sydney [DAB Documents University of Sydney, 2007], p. 58.

33 Level Playing Field, 1992 Mixed media collage (expanded mesh and carved wood) and oil on canvas, 40 x 57.5cm

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44 Jetty, 2006 Oil on canvas and metal tray, 55.5 x 73cm (dimensions include tray)

18 Untitled, 1993 Watercolour, pastel and ink on paper, 37.5 x 56cm

The form is no longer essence but becomes accident. The accident opens up a space between two planes‌ It is a frenetic zone in which the hand is no longer guided by the eye and is forced upon sight like another will, which appears as chance, accident, automatism, or the involuntary 29 Untitled, 1993 Applique, woodcut on cotton, collaged button, expanded mesh, carpet and painted wood, 50.5 x 53cm Deleuze, G. Francis Bacon: the Logic of Sensation, translated with introduction by Daniel W. Smith, Minneapolis [University of Minnesota Press, 1981], p. 127. AGAINST THE TID E

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2 Untitled, 1983

12 Untitled, 1985

glazed ceramic and wooden bowl Made in collaboration with Zsolt Faludi 8 x 48.5 cm

oil and charcoal on canvas 168 x 206.5 cm

3 Untitled, 1983 oil and charcoal on canvas 129 x 205.4 cm

4 Untitled, 1978-9 oil and charcoal on canvas 45.5 x 61 cm

5 Untitled, 1980 watercolour, pastel, pencil and gouache on paper 23.5 x 56 cm

6 Untitled, 1982 watercolour and pencil on paper 23.5 x 28 cm

7 Untitled, 1980 watercolour, pastel and gouache on paper 23.5 x 28 cm

8 Untitled, Undated oil on two wood panels 52 x 46 cm

oil and collage (woodcut on paper) on canvas 72 x 69 cm (includes shaped frame)

22 Back and Beyond II, 1990

13 Rhonnis Knows Where, 1985

23 Night Noises, 1999

four colour woodcut 59.5 x 45 cm

woodcut: (black) and lithograph (6 colours) on paper 38.5 x 58 cm

14 Dance, 1986 three colour woodcut 73.5 x 45 cm

15 (5), 1989

woodcut and etching 14.5 x 34.7 cm

24 Untitled, 1990 two colour etching and woodcut 45.6 x 57.8 cm

oil on board 73.5 x 50 cm (includes carved and painted frame)

25 Untitled, 1990

16 Untitled, 1986

26 Untitled, 1999

oil on canvas (includes incised and painted plaster sections in frame) 58 x 53 cm (including frame)

two panels – ink, watercolour, tempera and acrylic on paper 34 x 33 cm

17 Untitled, 1990

27 Untitled, Undated

oil and acrylic on two canvas panels 153.5 x 115.3 cm

oil on two panels, one canvas, one wood 75 x 85.5 (dimensions include painted wood slip frame)

18 Untitled, 1993 water colour, pastel and ink on paper 37.5 x 56

four colour woodcut 75.5 x 100 cm

28 Untitled, 1999

gouache, watercolour, ink, chalk and pencil on paper 29.5 x 40.6 cm

19 Blasted Westerly, 1985

gouache, water colour, on card (includes paint carton) 29 x 37 cm

three colour woodcut 32.5 x 51 cm

29 Untitled, 1993

10 Untitled, 1982-3

20 New Garden, 1985

9 Untitled, 1983

oil and charcoal on canvas 136 x 110 cm

Most of these works were made on Flinders Island – It took me a while to get used to the look and feel of the place – the works need no titles

four colour woodcut 75.5 x 100 cm

Except for the little watermelon these works all were made in Launceston. I had made an etching press and the woodcuts were a great way to try it out. There is still a feeling of Flinders in the work I think.

applique, woodcut on cotton, collaged button, expanded mesh, carpet, painted wood 50.5 x 53 cm

30 Untitled, 1996 woodblock on paper, carved and painted wood panel, painted sticks and charcoal on canvas 92.5 x 153 cm

35 Untitled, 1993 printed fabric appliqué and oil stick on hessian 59 x 49.5 cm

36 Surface Tension, 2006 oil on board (includes; recessed collage bamboo bowl, wire mesh, wire and wire frame hanger) 53 x 60 cm (not including wire frame)

37 Frosty’s Dam, 2006

oil on board (includes; recessed collaged bamboo bowl, and wire frame hanger) 50.5 x 61 cm (not including wire frame)

mixed media collage (expanded mesh and carved wood) and oil on canvas 40 x 57.5 cm

Made in collaboration with Zsolt Faludi incised and glazed ceramic bowl with painted bamboo insert 7.5 x 38.5 cm

gum bichromate, watercolour and ink on paper 25 x 64 cm

48 Untitled, 2005 ink, pastel, woodcut collage and watercolour on paper 22 x 49 cm

49 Untitled, 2009 (incorrectly dated in left corner) pastel, ink and watercolour on paper 28 x 37.5 cm

50 Untitled, 1999 ink, gouache, pastel, collage and watercolour on paper 29 x 39 cm

51 Untitled, 2009 gum bichromate, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper 36 x 27.5 cm

52 Untitled, 1990 oil on canvas 111 x 152 cm

53 Untitled, 1993

54 Untitled, 1993

39 Untitled, 2004 two panels; oil on canvas, wood tint and pastel on wood 80.5 x 72 cm

40 Untitled, 2004 oil, cord, bamboo dish on canvas 66.5 x 40 cm

oil and wood tint on wood 69 x 49.5 cm

33 Level Playing Field, 1992

47 Untitled, 2010

painted bamboo and wood 26 x 22 cm

41 Dry Dock, 2001

acrylic, checkerboard fake fur, water colour, collage on paper 33.5 x 27.5 cm

oil on canvas and wood 37 x 55 cm

38 Untitled, 2006

oil, carpet, hand printed (woodblock) fabric and charcoal on canvas 38 x 40 cm

32 Untitled, 1999

46 Cat Regarding Empire, 2004

Made in collaboration with Zsolt Faludi glazed black and white ceramic bowl, includes glass, mesh and metal screws 16 x 42.7 cm

31 Untitled, 1993

34 An Eclipse, 2002

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Living in Launceston I had many opportunities to explore different media – textiles and ceramics and I was becoming more able to use and reuse elements from one work to another and I was building works…

42 Sink, 2001 oil on board, metal posts with brass sleeves, bamboo watermelon dish 43 x 46 cm

43 Shell Game, 2006 oil on canvas and bamboo tray 52 x 62 cm

44 Jetty, 2006 oil on canvas and metal tray 55.5 x 73 cm (dimensions include frame)

45 Franklin Sounds, 2006 oil on three panels (two wood, centre canvas), includes two recessed bamboo bowls 106 x 167 cm

Made in collaboration with Zsolt Faludi glazed grey, green and white incised ceramic bowl 12.5 x 42.5 cm

55 Untitled, 1993 Made in collaboration with Zsolt Faludi glazed black, grey, blue and white ceramic bowl 85 x 26 cm

The Bowl… this recurring element began with the ceramics in the 90’s… and the line from the Rubaiyat…

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21 Back and Beyond, 1994

oil and charcoal on canvas 30.5 x 40.5 cm

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11 Watermelon, 1980-82

oil and charcoal on canvas 152 x 206 cm

MARS D EN

1 Untitled, 1983

David Marsden

Born 1949, Camberwell, Victoria Lives and works in Launceston, Tasmania Artwork collection of the artist

Let morning in the bowl of night cast the stone that puts the stars to flight… plays on my mind when I used the form

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AGA I NST Acknowledgements:

The Artist wishes to thank the Academy Gallery Board for the opportunity to review thirty years of “making stuff�. All those years were spent in communities that offered great support and encouragement and I thank them all once again for their support. Mounting an exhibition such as this is no small exercise and I have received help from friends with a ute, conversations with Jane Deeth, assistance hanging the show from Academy Gallery Exhibition Manager Robert Bolkald, advice on hanging the show from numerous passers by in the gallery, and patient and expert assistance in cataloguing the works from Amelia Rowe and my partner Penny Mason.

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Academy Gallery academy of the arts SCHOOL OF VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS LAUNCESTON UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA

Staff: Malcom Bywaters, Director Deborah Sciulli, Administrative Officer Robert Boldkald, Exhibition Manager Georgie Parker, President Academy Gallery Volunteer Club Catalogue published by the University of Tasmania, School of Visual and Performing Arts. All rights reserved. Copyright the author, artist and the University of Tasmania, School of Visual and Performing Arts.

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