Line and Weight

May 15 - June 1
Flinders Lane Gallery
Level 1, Nicholas Building
Cnr Swanston and Flinders Lane Melbourne

Opening Saturday, May 25 from 1-3 pm.

Good Thinking, 2019, oil on canvas, 122 x 153 cm.

Follow the Line, 2018, oil on canvas, 107 x 91 cm.

Brown Weft, 2018, oil on canvas, 91 x 71 cm.

Black White Construction, 2018, oil on canvas, 38 x 31 cm.

Flattened Package, 2018, oil on card, 42 x 34 cm.

Oval Lines, 2018, oil on paper on card, 56 x 39 cm.

An Infinite Fabric

Terri Brooks: Line and Weight

Anna Dunnill

To paint on canvas is to engage with an inherently gridded form. Like all woven fabric, canvas is constructed from a network of perpendicular threads: warp (vertical) interlocked with weft (horizontal) in a repeating over-under pattern. Fastened around a standard rectangle, it sets the parameters of the surface: verticals and horizontals set at 90 degree angles. Binary systems.

Throughout her multi-decade practice, artist Terri Brooks has used a process of intuitive layered mark-making to push these parameters apart and pull them back together, softening the grid’s hard angles into looser threads and earthy washes of colour.

In Line and Weight, Brooks has produced a sophisticated suite of paintings with clarity and depth. While sitting firmly in abstraction, her work is alive to its surroundings: it hints toward tree bark, stitching, textured cloth, scuff marks, architecture. Tactile things buried in the strata of memory.

For some works, like Brown Weft, 2019, the painting process is a lengthy one, taking perhaps five months and 40 or 50 layers; Brooks shows me the side of the canvas with its strata of paint to prove it. The resulting piece is far from weighed down, though. It undulates, its grid-lines extending off the picture plane. Chinks of light within the ‘weave’ reveal the layers underneath, the visible process of its making.

Brooks remembers her grandmother, who lived through the 1930s Great Depression, describing feats of ‘making do’. A few packing cases, for instance, might with some vision and ingenuity be turned into a lounge suite. In such times of necessity, the function of an object becomes fluid, its edges blurred; it contains the possibility of many forms.

This approach underscores Brooks’s practice. ‘Improvisation,’ she points out, ‘is the basis of making do.’ Pared down to the simplest form—the line—and a reduced palette that embraces the shades between black, white and brown, Line and Weight demonstrates the richness of Brooks’s repetitive painterly gesture, an ongoing improvisation as each mark responds to the one before.

One work gestures further towards the make-do ethos. Flattened Package, 2018, was once a humble cardboard box; the three-dimensional grid of its original hollow form is squashed flat. Brooks likens it to ‘road detritus’ seen on frequent walks: ‘paper and cardboard run over, discarded and weathered.’ Flattened Package is an irreverent object: flat planes buckled, edges bulging, the grid thoroughly disrupted.

In her seminal 1979 essay ‘Grids’, Rosalind Krauss writes that ‘logically speaking, the grid extends, in all directions, to infinity’. The grid within an artwork is therefore ‘a tiny piece arbitrarily cropped from an infinitely larger fabric’.[i] The paintings in Line and Weight convey both this sense of the infinite spatial grid and, through the building up of layers, the infinite and repetitious nature of time. Washed over, painted across, re-written, line by line.

[i] Rosalind Krauss, “Grids,” October 9, no. Summer, 1979 (1979): 50–64.

Regency, 2018, oil and enamel on canvas, 122 x 183 cm.

Twins, 2019, oil on hardened paper, 40 x 30 cm.

Link to full suite of paintings at Flinders Lane Gallery here

The works are now at Flinders Lane Gallery. Pictured here with assistant gallery director
is Flattened Package  and behind Thin White Lines, 2015.

Installation shots: