Stepping into the darkness

The opening of Becoming Darkness. Photo: Esta de Jong
The opening of Becoming Darkness. Photo: Esta de Jong
Nestled between Subway and an antiques shop on Princes St is "Becoming Darkness".

For the past two weeks, the space has been home to works from Esta De Jong, Lance Strickland and Brendan Jon Philip. The works span various disciplines: organically mutated film photographs, expressive paint on canvas and sculpture. Most immediately striking are the trio of tall ominous figures in the centre of the room which Lance refers to as "caretakers".

"They were basically watching over us, making sure we were all well, giving us their blessings, telling us off when we messed things up."

Uniting all the works is the central theme of "darkness". "Becoming Darkness" represents the unknown which, for many, is a source of fear, but for some a thing of beauty. The "caretakers" are a prime example.

"I think that the key to this is a play on the word `becoming', as in not `turning into darkness' but `becoming' as in `attractive'," explains Brendan. "It's the attraction of the darkness and the mystery of the darkness."

The exhibit also includes a musical component. Lance and Brendan are established musicians, performing under Mud Death and Grvdggr respectively, and exploring the overlap between the visual and aural aesthetics is fascinating.

Brendan's visual art includes subtle layers of splattered paint on canvas, sparing use of colour and text. It's not hard to draw an obvious connection to his audio work, which involves layers of dissonant improvised guitar.

"Of the four things that I do," he says. "I put painting and music together and writing and drawing together. Writing and drawing being descriptive and analytical, and the painting is more improvisational, textural, and about form-field relationships and chance operations and things like that.

"I find painting and playing guitar seem to fire the same parts of my brain."

Lance's visual art has a strong sense of performance. Staring into one of his photographs you sense a narrative, an impossible reality. His process involves developing photographs from film and mutating them with his hands: scratching, burning, stabbing.

"There's definitely a physical aspect that tie the two together for me," he says. "Because my photography is informed not just by photography but other things, like sculpture and music. For me, most of the time I'm trying to get an actual hands-on physical approach, a direct connection with the images I'm making because I concentrate on the prints and that's a lot of physical manipulation.

"And in my sound work there's a lot of manipulation, too. There's a common theme where I tend to experiment to a certain degree and use processes that give me sometimes haphazard results. So there's a shared approach between my photography and my music where I'm willing to make mistakes to get a result or have happy accidents."

The gig 

‘‘Becoming Darkness’’ closing celebration featuring L.$.D Fundrai$er, Smith and Grvdggr, Sunday, July 7 at 4pm, 23 Princes St.

 - Fraser Thompson

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