Unfinished Body of Work : Nicky Sievert. 9 - 26 JULY 2008

Unfinished Body of Work brings together a series of drawings and objects from Wellington-based artist Nicky Sievert. The works form part of an ongoing project exploring the ways in which shared values and social systems are set up around meaning; how they form and how they change.

Drawing on familiar social signifiers or markers, Unfinished Body of Work considers the process of constructing meaning and that the only certain outcome is its eventual subsidence.

R E V I E W_

Nicky Sievert’s show at High Street Project registers as a sort of étude. An Unfinished Body of Work, her display is a processual one, a slow draping of an idiom over the ex cathedra of the gallery space, played out as an espousal of her own evolutionary endeavour, with the delicate implications this has on her wider practice. The show exists in a subtly embossed state of renewal, delineated as a corpus of slightly detached, yet utterly integral explorations into a very unusual sort of body building. Pleasing, coming from a not-too-distant graduate of a Fine Arts institution, the exhibition is a tentative yet limpid meditation on the semantic import and export of the forms she’s working with here: pencil and paper, clay and rubber. Yet the studies are reassured, and there’s a sense of frustrated irony in the way their architectural subjects get constructed as poetic diagrams that consist of a misleading yet illuminating array of abstract information, such as the dense, diagonal lines that emanate from behind ‘Radiant Rouse’, which outline its titular, two-dimensional structure as the premature maquette that Sievert wants it to work as in our own cognitive mappings. ‘Nature’ is similarly set up on the petri dish of a mutable musée imaginaire, the arboreous topic in ‘Trees’ erected on a revolving podium that mirrors our circular mode of assessing such contested phenomena. Several of Sievert’s works possess an intriguing affinity with the biotech chic of a digital aesthetic, yet only achieve it through an earnest and diligent detail too prone and too fragile to be the product of a purely binary heurism. Sure, they exhibit a kind of comic effect through their seemingly haphazard, yet obsessively sketched gestural constitution, but this only serves to consolidate Sievert’s objective, however indeterminate. There’s also an attempt to foreground our own status as peripatetic – and therefore transformative – spectators, by the appearance of subtle objects that occur in the space as discreet moments, as physical after-echoes of daily encounters with familiar household effects, the ‘Cleaner’ piece, for example, moulded out of clay and showing off its delicate malleability. The same piece also gets turned inside-out as a quotidian invisibility, while Sievert follows Rachel Whiteread’s suit in casting the object as a melancholic shadow, seized from its symbolic plinth, re-held and beheld as a tangible, aesthetic instrument. On the other hand, the generic formula of a landscape iconoclasm in ‘Rocky Ground’ is arrested and distorted through a projection-based skeleton of its possible, photographic past-life, an eponymous unease permeating a would-be rock-solid form. Meanwhile, ‘Lumpen Rubber Flag’ reminds us that while they stick out in the imagination as proudly billowing figures, these titular totems are usually flaccid, their undersides appearing more frequently than their putative heraldry. ‘Host’ consists of twenty-one ostensible repetitions of an uninhabited skirt, poised over a diaphanous, interior background. Each of these drawings introduces a subtle shift in its appearance, establishing a series of variations on an everyday theme, while outlining the phantom shuffle of a material withdrawn from its wearer, the rearranged raiment framed within the larger, depopulated filmic sequence. The work to its right, ‘Death Drawing’, feels appropriately flat, an arrangement of dense, vertical lines constituting a larger monolith, but its horizon reveals an undulating surface that reads like the pulse of electrocardiogram monitor, or indeed an audio waveform, suggesting that things aren’t as flat (lined) as they seem. Sievert’s show certainly reads like a score to a musical study, yet it’s caught between this compositional order and the disorder of its inevitably desultory practice in everyday life. She limns her domestic items in a state of both subsistence and subsidence, as devices to be maintained in a business-as-usual sort of way, but also as items in the process of falling over, fashioned and modelled in our own pendulous hands. _Pete Reed