I'm really attracted to Smith's crisp, buoyant abstract paintings, and it was great to see a group of small works in the flesh, complete with gently visible brushwork.
However, it was her adaptables - three-dimensional works made of painted plywood, that can be manipulated into various origami-like forms - that I was really keen to see, especially after reading an interview with Smith in issue 5 of Art World.
Smith is very eloquent about her work, and her description of how the sculptural works had emerged made me really keen to see them:
'With the small paintings I acquire certain rules in regard to the types of shapes and colours that I use. In the process of making the work, these limitations build up to the point where I find it's necessary to shake them. The sculptural works came about as a way of solving ceratin problems I encountered with the painting process and its two-dimesnional plane. Over time, the sculpures began to influence the paintings to the point where, now, the relationship between the two is a continuous cycle.'
Sadly, while the single adaptable shown in 'Primavera' did give an inkling of this relationship between the paintings and the sculptural works, it didn't give me the experience I wanted after reading the interview.
Partly it was the presentation: a video showing the adaptable in various forms should have been dropped in favour of including more works; it made as little sense as one painting and a screen with digital examples of more. Partly it was that the form chosen for the adaptable on show seemed to be one of the less adventurous positions it could take on, as demonstrated in the video. And - admittedly - the work featured a certain shade of salmon-pink that I find very off-putting.
On the upside, one of the best things about the visit was an exhibition upstairs that brought together a range of works acquired by the MCA from Primavera's of the past. Acquisitions shows can be higgledy-piggledy and disjointed, but this one not only brought together some real gems, but also gave context to the exhibition downstairs, showing how Primavera has grown alongside the artists it has featured.
Images, from top
Gemma Smith Untitled #1 2008. Acrylic on board.
Gemma Smith Adaptable (lemon/turquoise) 2006.
Gemma Smith, installation view of 2006 exhibition at Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney.
All images from the Sarah Cottier Gallery website.