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Anna Varendorff two grid paintings 30 June - 22 July 2023

Anna Varendorff works in sculpture, installation, jewellery and object design with an emphasis on interactivity. Varendorff’s practice places objects made, found and adapted into public spaces. The works utilise repetition, line and dimension to engage memory and association. Metal is a key material for Varendorff and methods of forming and fabricating probe the politics of labour.

Anna Varendorff’s exhibition two grid paintings is a composition of ready made objects, curated out of the urban environment. Pieces float across Caves gallery’s walls. A gate, chair, wire frame fence, coverall have their value reattributed from an obsolescence that is a condition of the modern day’s continual cycles of manufacture and construction. These once discarded objects are elevated and repurposed to hold the essence of canvasses formed from their own material.

On entry to the gallery, two wheel ramps hang mirrored and stacked against gravity. Rust paint temps the oxidisation of their metal. The paired metal frames bend, refusing symmetry; their warping formed in response to the weight they carried from forgotten wheels, and as the result of the hands that crafted them.

Beside the door, a heavy cross wired, iron gate hangs inverted. Its dinted frame, at some unknown time, painted black over its original green. Its oxidised metal stake points upwards, still encrusted with soil from a location that can’t be remembered since the gate was pulled from the ground, to be discarded.

Beside it hangs a security grill. The yellow barrier invites the eye into dissected shadows and shifting earthy tones. Its lattice is folded to create an overlay that draws you closer, where once it meant to keep at bay. The frame’s hard lines hide bends and curves formed in its crafting, by standing and in its discarding – ninety degree angle’s become illusions of a glance.

Varendorff’s own yellow coveralls hang on the inner wall by the window, an outer skin left to hang loose. Found second hand, the fabric is now filled with the remnant particulates resulting from the process of making with metal – particulates that left unfiltered coat and fill the lungs – the remnants of filing, sanding and soldering steel, brass, aluminium and copper.

A metal chair floats beside it, covered in rusty, flaking cream paint. The chair is sliced in two, mirroring, staring back at itself, forming a butterfly’s wings. The chair holds a frozen moment as the metal wings flutter against gravity, stuck to give in to oxidisation.

Looking out the gallery’s windows is a scene of living clutter. The city moves with a sense of static to the sound of traffic and crowds. Office windows stare back from the air gap above the street. The red, white and grey frames of cranes stack among the high rise. The grey sky permeates the patchwork of eras hidden in the city’s walls that line the grid. The reconstruction of a city never ceases until it falls to entropy.

A city moves like a living thing, growing around us as we walk its grid of streets. Our desires and necessity direct us. We develop externalised definitions of ourselves through the objects we interact with and acquire. Designed obsolescence and the object made to be discarded have become normalised. The act of making for exploration and craft for the sake of good practice can so easily have their value forgotten.

Proven physical structures hold their use during differential change. They hide everywhere – under the mundane of the passing eye. These structures ring true in function and hold artistry in their construction; the worker’s coverall that protects the skin and give the body space to cut metal or work in the dust of building and making; the metal frame that holds the weight of a gate, wall or window, or sits in the foundation of a building; the strength of the chair on which we sit to contemplate or to think about thinking.

The idea of these objects appears absolute – complete only in a way of passing between states. The process of constructing an object may be completed, but its perceived value changes over time – living as it moves between conditions. We attribute value and beauty in our subjective responses to the things that make the world around us appear concrete in form. How the skin responds to morphing texture; the eye catches the shimmer in the dull; the olfactory detects the scent of a particular dust. This passing between states gives objects their life.

In two grid paintings the works hold a memory that has grown into their material, through time, labour, casting aside, collecting and entropy – to be found as beautiful in their having been something else. The bend on the metal, the dints and dirt, the rust beneath. They are objects that have grown out of the cycles of the city’s construction and manufacture.

These objects made by hand and machine to serve narrow functions, have beauty cast into them through having existed in the framework of their function. To be discarded to the skip or op shop and forgotten for the new. Each piece’s function changed in being collected and curated by Varendorff. This act changing them into the canvas and the work. They become physical memories of the end state at the completion of one task, to be re-tasked in celebration of their inherent form.

two grid paintings sees discarded metal objects as having value in the beauty of their construction. The metal frames let the light pour though, as rust grows, as the oxygen finds breaks in the acrylic that held against the weather. These objects once used among the sprawling of our time, built like so much to be used and thrown away, their function reformed now hanging above to hold as the image in itself: the discarded exemplified as the image on the wall.

by Robert J. Healey

Photo courtesy of the artist

Anna Varendorff has exhibited in Australia and Internationally since 2004 including at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), with Local Design in Milan in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and currently in Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria. Varendorff’s work is in private and public collections. She is the founder of design practice ACV studio. ACV Studio’s work Glass Half Full Vase was the winner of a 2018 Wallpaper* designer of the year award.