Distant Constellation

2020

Penny Contemporary
187 Liverpool Street,
Hobart, Tasmania

15 February – 7 March 2020

Distant Constellation - Paul Zika

List of Works

Stellar 4 2017
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 5 2017
92 x 85 x 5

Stellar 6 2018
92 x 85 x 5

Stellar 7 2018
91.5 x 85 x 5

Stellar 8 2018
92 x 85 x 5

Stellar 9 2018
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 10 2018
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 11 2019
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 12 2019
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 13 2019
92 x 85 x 5.5

Stellar 14 2019
92 x 85 x 5.5

All works acrylic on wood; height then width and depth in centimetres.

These paintings continue the pursuit of a pictorial space that remains both volatile and seductive; one that entices and overwhelms; one that we become totally immersed in, and we surrender to that capture! The Stellar series has seen the introduction of more complex multidirectional compositions within the single panel and is a response to the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella and to the architecture of Frank Gehry, reappraised in two tours of the USA in 2016-7


This project has been assisted by the University of Tasmania
Photography: Simon Cuthbert


Opening Speech:

"I acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land, the muwininia (mou wee nee nar) - I pay my respects to those that have passed before us. And I acknowledge today’s Tasmania first nations people who are the custodians of the land.

It is a great honour to be here this afternoon to open Paul Zika’s exhibition ‘Distant Constellation’. As way of introduction to myself my name is Meg Keating and I am the Head of School of the School of Creative Arts and Media, I am also a graduate of that school. It was at the school that I first meet Paul on the day after I first arrived in Hobart as a young undergraduate student in 1996. And in some shape and form Paul and I have been working together ever since. Then he was my teacher, my PhD supervisor , my work colleague in the Painting Studio; now we work together as supervisors of PhD students. He is still my mentor.

I mention this background and the natural evolution of relationships and roles because it is a critical part of Paul’s working process . Evolution, reworking, reconstruction, revisting , re-imaging are essential strategies in Paul’s practice.


The work we see here today is a progression of ideas, interests and construction methods that Paul has been refining for nearly 50 years.

When I went over to Paul’s studio last weekend to preview this work, Paul pulled out a number of screen prints that he had made in the early 70’s (in fact the work from his very first exhibition). I had first come across these works many years ago through the University of Tasmania’s art collection and more recently at the exhibition ‘Artist to Artist’ at CAT in 2016. These works of reduced planes, of unexpected intense colour, which Paul refers to as elevations of paintings, echo the architectonic considerations of the works here today. This architectonic quality refers to both design and structure where perspectives are raised and sight lines are aerial.

This reference is reflected in Paul’s long standing construction and working process. He draws these designs on drafting film at full scale. Separating the layers and planes in ghosted veneers. The ghosted layering of the studio working drawings is again mirrored in these final works which hover off the wall, where line becomes plane and plane becomes form, where the viewer is caught in a suspended loop of spatial temporal play.

This interest in architectural concerns has been reignited on Paul’s recent travels to the US where he visited Frank Gehry’s Strata building in Boston MIT, as well as a number of exhibitions on geometric abstraction including Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly.

For those that are not familiar with Gehry’s building, the building looks as if it's about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve, and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror, steel, brushed aluminium, brightly coloured paint, corrugated iron, and where everything looks unstable.
There are strong parallel here to Paul’s interests.

For those that are familiar with Paul’s oeuvre, these new works are almost shocking in their pared back form. While appearing deceptively simple the works are constructed within a strict number of constraints. The angles of each corners are set, which complicates their geometry, and results in forms that appear strangely illogical. There are endless numbers of permutations that could be arrived at here, each one is shrewd and astute.

Just like Gehry’s Strata Building - it is as if the forms were once square and true but had been dropped or pushed to once side by an unseen force. The off-kilter angles are not obvious and we are at first unsure why they don’t quite look right. Like jigsaw pieces that have been forced into the wrong connection and only become apparent when you get to the end of the puzzle and the last pieces don’t fit. This tension or subtle anxiety is another enduring quality of Paul’s work. Paul likes to play within this awkwardness and the not quite rightness of standards and rules. We also see this in the choice of bold colour and white with the addition of reflective and metallic surfaces. A quiet cacophony of surface finish.

Underlining this rigorous design sensibility and attention to detail is a subtle poetic allusion. In the title of the exhibition –and the names of the individual works Stellar and Constellation we are reminded of distant galaxies, time scales and spaces that are vast and epic and well beyond our grasp. The allusion to vastness, and infinity, in this moment in history- this time of bush fires and environmental change, of virus epidemics and fear and uncertainly…..there is a mournful wistfulness.

Wistfulness- what I thinking -I am reading just far too much into this – wistful…. No …Constellation
I think that’s just a cheeky reference to Paul’s own enduring star quality and a not too subtle nod to another champion of geometric abstraction….Frank Stella.

Congratulations."


Associate Professor Meg Keating, Head of School, School of Creative Arts and Media.


Review, Saturday Mercury, 29 Feb 2020, Page 18