Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prime - RM Clare Hartley McLean & Rohan Hartley Mills



97,  2012
wood, copper, stainless steel cable, Mylar
3000mm x 2200mm x 600mm


The first of eight basic positions from which a parry or attack can be made in fencing –

Rohan Hartley Mills and Clare Hartley McLean

Some of the definitions of the word ‘Prime’ provided by the Collins English Dictionary

word origin

(adjective) from Latin prīmus; (noun) from Latin prīma 

adjective

- First in quality or value; first-rate

- Fundamental; original

- First in importance, authority, etc; chief

noun

- The time when a thing is at its best

- A period of power, vigour, etc, usually following youth (esp in the phrase the prime of life)

- The beginning of something, such as the spring

- Linguistics a semantically indivisible element; minimal component of the sense of a word

- The first of eight basic positions from which a parry or attack can be made in fencing

verb

- To prepare (something); make ready

- To apply a primer, such as paint or size, to (a surface)

- To insert a primer into (a gun, mine, charge, etc) preparatory to detonation or firing

- To operate with or produce steam mixed with large amounts of water

- To provide with facts, information, etc, beforehand; brief




A Rondel Prime poem is a traditional form of French poetry. Its popularity has faded over time but I still find its repetitive emphasis beguiling.

Here are the guidelines:

  • In English, it is syllabic, often falling into iambic meter with all lines of similar length
  • Four stanzas total, first three stanzas have four lines, last stanza is a couplet
  • Line 1 repeats at line 7 & 13
  • Line 2 repeats at 8 & 14
  • Rhyme scheme: A-B-b-a // a-b-A-B // a-b-b-a // A-B  
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

He makes as though in our arms repelling
He fain would lie as he lay before;
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

Ah ! who shall help us from over-spelling
That sweet, forgotten, forbidden lore?
E'en as we doubt, in our hearts once more,
With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

-       Henry Austin Dobson



There is a sort of reverence usually reserved for the quiet of churches in Rohan Hartley Mills and Clare Hartley McLean’s ‘Prime’ at RM103.
While Mills expands on the 20th Century’s rejection of traditional representations of painting, taking it a step further still. McLean gives us a silent moment of immersion in something I can’t quite put my finger on. Spirituality is too encumbered a word.
Mills’ paintings come assemblages have visual nods to the likes of yesteryear heavyweights Morris Louis and the stringent geometry of Frank Stella. Yet he expands on this. He takes the focus away from the canvas and mark making and instead pushes his work into a three dimensional realm. The yellow industrial tape leaking its way off the rigid square instantly transforms the canvas into an object existing in our space. It’s almost an intrusion, like a strange surrealist assemblage reflecting itself on the floor. As Mills himself states “I use the history of painting as a catalyst to inform my own practice, to give myself something to ‘turn away from’ in order to re-contextualise my practice.” While this expansion is gallant in its application, the unabashed dialogue with the history of abstraction is a brave venture and it is this audacity that gives the work its weight. The work is physically precarious, it can be illusory in its presence but the fact is that it has presence. There is an organic and assured feel to these two works.

Mills is adjective number two: Fundamental; original

McLean’s work is precious. Her use of materials is acutely aware of its provenance making the material as important as the form that it takes. The work itself feels like it should have belonged in the Natasha Conland curated exhibition ‘Mystic Truths’ at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2007. McLean’s work feels like a straddle between the too-serious-to-be-tongue-in-cheek performance art of Yves Klein and the alchemy and illusion of Dane Mitchell. There seems to be an element of universal truth in the art; a previously employed gold circle and a harrowingly Romantic gold pole/spear had an air of dignified symbolism and a deep sense of ‘the other’. The use of gold accentuates the alchemy aspect to her practice: to transform cheap and mundane metals into the precious substance was the ultimate unfulfilled ambition of the alchemists. What McLean achieves here is fulfilled. She has created an experience that is physically irresistible. It is alluring in its sparkle yet dreadful in its ambition. I feel pulled into it, unable to hide away from something I know nothing of.

McLean is noun number four: Linguistics a semantically indivisible element; minimal component of the sense of a word.


Andy Gomez
Copyright Andy Gomez. 2012