Located in the DuPlessis Building on North Terrace this large and somewhat dark space is an excellent venue to showcase the contemporary works within. It was certainly an experience to view this show; which is sadly ending on the 26th of August.
Sam Howie is an Adelaide based artist who enjoys the exploring effects of paint on surface. This work, “Non- Covering” 2012 is certainly striking. It is composed of nine panels layered with canvas and enamel. Originally it existed as a flat monochrome set of panels which have then been sliced with a blade and allowed to slide and drip from the surface, gathering in great clumps. The oil painted surface is coagulated; drying with distorted lumps and folds. The canvas itself seems to be engorged; unable to contain the medium on its surface, it expels it, letting it slide off and onto the floor beneath. Under the canvas though, it is still the same as before like a lizard shedding its skin. This work is very exciting; as the concepts it describes are what we are seeing in our contemporary human landscape of existence, but may not be truly aware of. We must look at this work through the lens of Metamodernism; as in his own description Sam sites this contemporary concept as a key constructive influence.
So what is Metamodernism? Well; this is not as simple as providing mere definition, as we need to understand both Modernism and Post Modernism, so the term itself is a little illusive. It is “an oscillation between a typically modern commitment and a markedly postmodern detachment”. So what does it mean? Modernism was a movement that occurred as people began to react to the industrialised world. The artist sought refuge in the discovery of new forms; most of which reflected the pure elements of Art. The artist became the measure of what was art and the search for what art was became the work. Then in Post-modernism; Art went beyond this search, where nothing new was being created, the artist re-hashed and re-released the works of the past in a contemporary format, to people who had forgotten what the past really was. One could describe Post-modernism as Fredric Jameson did “It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.”
The consumer became the measure of what art was. Howie’s work slides between the two poles of Metamodernism. One the one hand he is employing a modernist approach continuing in the historical tradition of the abstract style of painting. On the other hand through the slicing of the material and excavating beneath its surface he is searching for “something” within the paint; yet the postmodern irony is that all that is being uncovered is more paint.
In Metamodernism the belief is that humanity is responding; as the early modernists did, to major societal changes. These changes we are witnessing at the moment; the idea of technological symbiosis is particularly interesting where the lines between human and machine become so blurred that we might forget what we really are.