Silence – 2004, wall work

And so the story goes……..


I started to explore

the concept of the beautiful object

by looking specifically at historical jewellery

but although visually pleasing,

 I did not find them beautiful.

For me something was missing.

Of most interest were ones that showed the hand of the maker,

an element of the process involved while  making the work,

that showed marks of time,

a sense of story,

beyond concepts of statements of

financial, social or religious status.


So, where to then,

what was a beautiful object to me,

what elements,

combined together made me think ‘beautiful’?


I looked to the Art World,

flipping through catalogues and books

for ‘objects’ that jumped out at me,

looking for memories of works I had seen that had left me





that seemed to touch all my senses,

at least conceptually.


Marking pages with post-it notes, I searched my brain, trying to remember the last time I was ‘spellbound’ by something, an ‘object’.


Then it came to me.

Two years ago taken by a friend

to a Steve Reich concert at the Opera House.

I wasn’t fussed either way about going,

being a music Philistine,

I had no idea who Steve Reich was.

Up until then I had found music pleasant enough to listen to

(some sounds more than others)

but nothing beyond that.


At the end of the concert

I still didn’t know who Steve Reich was.

Memories of the music faded over time

but the impact it had on me is still present today.

The experience had indeed been a beautiful one,

it had opened my eyes and my ears to music.

The rhythmic pulsations,

the repetitiveness,

and gradual shifting and unfolding of the work

gave me an immense sense of calm,

while also coming alive inside me,

seeping into my pores,

creating amazing imagery.

It was spellbinding.


But not an object, not for this project…

so back to the post-it notes…


‘for the most beautiful object’.

There wasn’t one.

But there was something.


What was it about the work of

Polly Apfelbaum,

her installation pieces of

rows and rows of coloured fabric?

Was it her formal concerns

 regarding the arrangement of




Where the order and structure of the rows of colour,

give way to chance

through the hand dyed and textural qualities of the fabric?


Or Ding Yi,

with his references to cloth and everyday life.

The labour of the repetition of mark,

the sense of time and duration in his work.


Or Ariane epars,

her site specific installations using ordinary materials

 from construction and everyday living,

applied in a non-conventional way.


labour intensive, repetitious…

’the days unfolding in a kind of private performance comprising relentless, repetitive gestures and a “struggle against the clock”’ [1]


Robert Hunter,

who seems to paint similar paintings over and over,

 with subtleties of differences.

His work always starting with the same formal grid structure

  worked on in a methodical, mechanical manner,

marking out and overlaying geometric patterns of white.

At first glance the works seem set to exact geometrical formulas

but there are slight shifts,

with no focal point.


Or Lani Maestro’s ‘Cradle, 1996’,

where repetition

 of sleeplike enclosures of mosquito netting

 evoke the feeling of



Perry Roberts,

 who again, uses the grid

and often works with multiple panels of identical pieces.


The Aboriginal works of

George Tjungurrayi and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri

with their flowing abstracted lines.

The process of their painting,

often undertaken with a single, repetitive action,

but where imperfection is

 allowed and embraced.

Where the viewer can see

 where the artist stopped to reload their brush with paint.


The work of Debra Dawes,

And her gingham fabric paintings.

 The repetition of the grid in her design,

broken with imperfections,

reflecting the hand of the artist,

reflecting time taken for breaks

and shifting of physical positions during the making of the work.

Or more recent work with vertical bars

 of the canvas marked out, reflecting the days of the month,

which are filled in one a day (more if a day is missed).

The resulting work,

reflecting a visual statement

of the daily rhythms of life.


Judith Kentish’s ‘ Breath Carapace’

(the work chosen to represent the the objects I was drawn to),

which deals with concerns of the external and internal ‘skin’

 folding and pleating in on itself,

 shifting from form to formlessness,

a fraction of a smaller

work blown up with  photocopies,

 the grid holding the work together,

but with slight miscodings.

The scale of the piece invoking

 a feeling of silent meditation.


The work of

Lionel Bawden,

Donna Marcus,

Judith Wright,

Ari Purhonen,

Op Art,

American Minimalism

the list goes on.



Back to Steve Reich’s music

 with little variation of



 where the listener needs to focus

 with microscopic awareness

 on a slowly changing sound.

Who explores ways in which

 a rhythmic figure can move out of phase with itself.

Where there is no ‘focal point’

 to the music.

Where concerns include the

‘hearing of the process by which the music is constructed’.

Reich argues that in order to help allow closely detailed listening,  

a musical process must happen extremely gradually,

like the movement of

the minute hand of a watch.



So, what

Are the elements that I find ‘beautiful’

in an object or work of art?


the importance of

‘the process’ of the creation of the object

a sense of time,

of the time taken

during the making of the piece


A sense of rhythm,

of repetition

but with a hand made quality,

(not machinelike)

 allowing for tiny variations

and a sense of chance

 which imparts vitality.


a concern for the detail,

the more one looks,

the more one sees/hears


A meditative quality,

Sometimes quiet

The play of

light and shadow


A sense of refinement,

of what has been taken out, excluded


A sense of delicacy

but with strength

 of being there

and almost-not-there


A sense of containment

but not restriction or confinement


A sense of ritual,


Again, repetition

mutation of the mark and shape

[1] Pierre-Andre Lienhard, 1998, 11th Biennale Sydney