Andrew McPhail and Svava Thordis Juliusson by Pippa Cilliers 1
The Meaningful & the Mundane:The Work of Andrew McPhail & Svava Thordis Juliusson
by Pippa Cilliers
Left detail: Andrew McPhail, Prick, Centre3 for Print and Media Arts, 2012. / Right detail: Svava Thordis Juliusson, Snjóflóð/Færslur (Avalanche/Records), Gallery 4, Hamilton Public Library, 2012.
Artists Andrew McPhail and Svava Thordis Juliusson share a studio on the corner of James and Cannon in Hamilton. While both are relatively new to the art community of James North, their individual practices have developed over many years. With multiple and overlapping shows, and given the time consuming nature of their work, a labour that is written in the details, it is evident that these two artists have been very busy.
McPhail and Juliusson create installations that vary in concept yet relate in process. Call it obsessiveness –madness even, both artists repeat gestures to the point of absurdity, with differing ideas at the core. McPhail deals more explicitly with human behaviour: self-consciousness, sexuality, sincerity and the mundanity therein. The initially vulnerable and sincere tone of his work is rounded off with a hint of self-deprecation and an undeniable humour. Juliusson’s work comes from a place of human behaviour too, yet achieves an aesthetic that beckons the microscopic world of organisms made large and startlingly vivid. Transferring 2D maps of Iceland (her place of birth) into the third dimension, and translating years of personal files into her own language, she converts her experiences into odd, yet beautiful forms that read as both foreign and familiar. At the most basic level, what connects these two artists' work is the action of attachment and repetition. The compulsivity with which this action is repeated leads to stunningly complex and intricate installations that transform mundane materials into something meaningful. Both artists explore the possibilities and potential of their material of choice while allowing the textiles to dictate their actions and ultimately control the outcome of a piece.
Juliusson’s most recent work Snjóflóð/Réttir. (Avalanche/Corral) was on display at the 2012 SuperCrawl: a massive bundle of cable ties and orange safety rope suspended on the side of the CBC building. The sheer size and intensity of hue makes the piece impossible to miss. The clash of neon orange against the black and white of the wall seems all the more wild and unconfined in contrast to the order of the geometrics that surround it. Like an organic intervention on a grand scale, there is as well something strangely indicative of the miniscule –as though a parasitic algae has taken over the static structure of the building.