Review :: Organism

October 5th 2011

Somewhere between the game Spore and Mexican alebrijes is Jack Stahel's Organism, a show which charts the half-lifecycle of some strange creatures from conception to maturity. Their early growth is spattered watercolour, budding cells and soupy organisms drawn in black ink and final-legged things coming to life in papier-mache. By the door, a long journal flutters from the wall to the floor, sketches, ideas and things growing along its art-eaten spine. The things seem stronger than the book which made them, and the rest of the show has the book's escapees.

The titular 'organisms' are sketched in black ink. Each line is a short peck, a tiny crack of drawing, millimetres long and no more. Further away, they become whipping lines of flow and motion. Shells open and spew out eyes, tentacles, a tiny heart, a spider, a skull. They form flagella, nuclei, escaping fluid and just stuff. Eyes seem to grow, flesh accretes on coralline forms. Their movements hang, suspended.
In papier-mache, the first of the small 'specimens' sit under glass. These seem to rustle under their bell jars in moth-like, iridescent colours wrapped by a white outer shell. Nearby, tall cousins with lily-pad heads or wind-swept white limbs stroll from their plinth. In a final corridor, larger ones have escaped their bell jars. Most of them a foot long, they crawl up the walls, hide in crevices or explode in flight. Skins hospital white, their insides strain to escape, full of bright washes and pulsing vessels of colour — shell fish, seaweeds, and white spidery things. Some seem familiar from the ink drawings, but others have no connection. Scuttling, they sit at the end of a slow germination; unreal, convincing and vivacious. Not all of Stahel's work matches the vibrancy of these final creatures, but these Aussie alebrijes would be worth a show all their own.
What: Jack Stahel's Organism
Where: Kudos Gallery, 6 Napier St, Paddington
When: Until 8 October
How much: Free


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