Kylie Stillman

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Kylie Stillman Pattern Maker 6 - 27 March © Utopia Art Sydney


Pattern Maker The design suite of nature offers a complex range of forms, structures and patterns. Whirling spirals, bubbling foams, dislocated cracks and tiled tessellations; all patterns found in plants, river channels, weather systems and even in the formation of galaxies. Many of these patterns are the most efficient systems for sharing energy, or the results of expanded force. Fractal geometry explains their infinite self replication and iterative shape formation,1 the recurring template that determines their pattern design. Throughout history, humans have used mark making to depict these naturally occuring forms. Feverish zigzag and crisscross patterns, and less abstract, stylised human figures and animals; these are the oldest known aesthetic gestures engraved, carved, painted and punctured onto rocks, shells and animal hides by early humans. For archaeologists studying ancient samples, they discern between ‘body fossils’ which feature source materials such as bird skeletons preserved in limestone and leaves encased in dried mud. Whereas ‘trace fossils’ illuminate the behaviours and activity of living things, their footsteps and handprints, cupules and petroglyphs; the marks they have left behind. Contemporary examples include the many tiny knife

1 ‘Fractal Basics’, Lumen Mathemathics for the Liberal Arts, accessed 12 February 2021 from https://courses.lmenlearning.com/wmopen-mathforliberalarts/chapter/introductionfractal-basics/


cuts etched into a chopping board, the ‘name-heartname’ drawn into drying cement, a buttonhole, and the many artworks created by Melbourne artist Kylie Stillman. The artist recalls an early discovery of trace fossils during a childhood game of hide and seek, where she noticed incoherent chalk marks on the underside of a piece of furniture. These remnants of calculations left by a carpenter, powdery granular marks meeting the timber surface, made evident the trace of thought and presence of a vanished body. 2 For Stillman’s latest exhibition ‘Pattern Maker’ the artist reveals two core elements of her art practice: the iterative process of creating patterns and her production methods for making. On display is a series of unframed gouache works on paper alongside framed, stitched drawings that continue her exploration of the relationship between nature’s patterns and mark making. Patterns of woodgrain, spider webs, leaves and honeycomb are revealed using the textural rubbing technique of frottage, rendered with seemingly spontaneous marks, scribbles and doodles by the artist. The origins of the displayed works are small experimental sketches made with Conte pastel, which are scaled up to create templates for new works. Stillman uses these as a stencil, to mark up and plan out reproductions

2 Kylie Stillman, email correspondence with the author, 13 February 2021.


Pattern Maker

in gouache, thread and beads.3 The source materials have been pixelated to varying degrees throughout the exhibition, their textural traces competing with the artist’s vivid circular swirls, dashes, zigzag forms and loop gestures to create intentional visual gaps. These voids prompt the viewer to resolve the image, mentally completing the missing elements of each pattern. For ‘End Grain’, Stillman’s repeated, abrupt, vertical and oblique gestures have abstracted the wood grain texture to reveal an intriguing new design typeface. Whereas, the patterns of the wood grain and bark features of ‘Cross Grain’ remain recognisable; the stuttered, vertical lines of the artist’s hand reveals a clear image, but as if from a printer that is low on ink. For Stillman, frottage is the starting point for her pattern making. Like a rudimentary form of photography or printmaking, she finds the technique most appealing for how it replicates scale. 4 When reproduced at an exaggerated size, the marks of the wood grain in ‘Growth Rings’, the tiles of ‘Hexagonal Tessellation’, and line details of ‘Colour Management’ could be forensically examined to deduce the scale of the original object. Similarly, pace and energy are visibly

3 Kylie Stillman, email correspondence with the author, 14 February 2021. 4 Kylie Stillman, email correspondence with the author, 2 February 2021.


scaled up and down. The fluidity of the artist’s gestures in gouache appears spontaneous and unlabored, whereas the arduous threaded and beaded works are contemplative, deliberate and slow. Expanded and rendered in black beads, the familiar wood grain detail of ‘Growth Rings’ now appears like the endlessly revolving rings of a planet in deep space; and the lines depicting the partial skeleton and boundary area of ‘Leaf Margin’ reach outward to the page margin like a celestial halo. The dynamism of Stillman’s gestures is magically suspended on paper, offering an opportunity to spend time enjoying the overlooked patterns, forms and structures of everyday phenomena which are transformed into thrilling traces of artistry. Rachel Keir-Smith, 2021






Installation Im


mages


Cat. 1, Hexagonal Tessellation, 2019, beads and cotton thread on paper, 42 x 60 cm


Cat. 2, Colour Managment, 2021, beads and cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 3, Honeycomb Conjecture, 2019, cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 4, Starburst Folia, 2019, cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 5, Spiral Leaflets, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 6, Leaf Margin, 2020, cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 7, Drop Shadow, 2020, watercolour on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 8, Drop Shadow, 2020, cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 9, Growth Rings, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 10, Growth Rings, 2019, beads and cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 11, Colour Management, 2020, cotton thread on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 12, Scribble Leaflets, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 13, Curl Leaflets, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 14, Zigzag Leaflets, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 15, End Grain, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 16, Cross Grain, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm



Cat. 17, Spiral Grain, 2019, gouache on paper, 76 x 56 cm


Cat. 18, Mud Print II, 2020, paperback books and timber base, 23 x 23 x 14 cm



Cat. 19, Mud Print III, 2020, paperback books and timber base, 23 x 23 x 14 cm



Cat. 20, Mud Print I, 2020, paperback books and timber base, 23 x 23 x 14 cm



Installation, Verso, 2020, Hawthorn Arts Centre, VIC



Cat. 21, Verso B, 2020, paperback books, marker and timber box, 44 x 83 x 18.5 cm



Cat. 22, Verso C, 2020, paperback books, marker and timber box, 51.5 x 86 x 18.5 cm



Cat. 23, Verso D, 2020, paperback books, marker and timber box, 48 x 91 x 18.5 cm



Cat. 24, Verso E, 2020, paper backbooks, marker and timber box, 51.5 x 97 x 18.5 cm




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