FINGER TOUCH, 2005

Site-specific tape wall drawing
Colored tapes and clay polymer on both sides of 3 freestanding glass partition walls
Running length: 60 feet

Ebsworth & Ebsworth Offices, Sydney, Australia

In Finger Touch, the reference to a map locates the work firmly in Australia, to a prehistoric flint mine below the Nullarbor Plain excavated by indigenous people some 20,000 years ago. The cave contains “a series of cathedral-size chambers, mirror-like lakes, narrow passages and steep boulder-clad slopes” (Archeology and the Dreamtime, Josephine Flood, 1983). Plans published of the cave show side and overhead views, conjuring a mysteriously varied interior space with a strong psychological resonance. The image of the cave references both a piece of Australia’s history as well as a moment in human technological and artistic development, and is hence rich in meaning as well as visual interest. The reference to mapping conveys a complex idea often addressed by Smith in her art – namely, that of how to communicate an elaborate multidimensional system through what is essentially a flat combination of lines in just two dimensions – a notion the artist expects will resonate and find parallels in the activity of the law firm.

Smith worked on two sides of a transparent surface for the first time in Finger Touch and by the end had created a new kind of art, best described as a drawing in space. The artist needed to develop new techniques to meet the challenge of making the drawing visually interesting from both sides, including lining the undersides of broad tape lines with narrower tapes in contrasting colours, and adhering crumbled polymer clay of intense hue to the "wrong” side of the tape, to make the visual reality “doublesided.” The title of the work, Finger Touch, refers to the soft interior surface of the cave, in which the slightest imprint of finger or limb would be indelibly recorded. The evocation of the sense of touch echoes the artist’s way of making a drawing – which is an unusually active and expressive process, involving sticking the tape down, reversing direction, pulling it back on itself, bunching and kneading it, pooling and layering it. As an artist, Smith combines qualities usually antithetical, by making moves alternatively methodical and bold, and proceeding after careful planning and forethought while still allowing the unexpected to occur. When looking at the finished work, excitement is conveyed through the vibrancy of the colour and the texture of the tape, and it is possible to follow the line and reconstruct the artist’s process of making.

Barbara Flynn

 
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